Kevin Morby — Sundowner (October 16, 2020) ★ Znáte dílek skládanky. Svět vypadá jako před deseti lety, ale jen povrchně vzato. V zásadě se dost změnil. Toto je dílo singer~songwritera, odděleného od hlavní scény, s nádechem country~rocku. Skladatelovo nejnovější album vzdává hold jeho domovu v Kansas City s vizí Středozápadu. Působí bájně a enormně. Nerovnoměrnější okamžiky hrozí, že podkopou Morbyho nejsilnější písně. „Brother, Sister“ patří do nevkusného starého westernového filmu s bubny, které se třesou jako hromové klapky a na konci s praštěným výkřikem. Velká část písně zahrnuje Morbyho zpěv „bum buh duh bum“ nebo „Ach, bratře / zabili tě mrtvého“, jako šerif z malého města s knírem na řídítkách. Zatímco jeho záliba ve všech retro věcech je obvykle přesvědčivá, tady je tak pečlivě vytvořená, že je to trochu směšné. „Velvet Highway“, plně instrumentální track naráží na podobný problém. Začíná to malátnými, zasněnými klávesy, poté se rozpadne na podivné perkuse a zní to, jako by někdo strkal nejvyšší tóny na starý klavír.
★ To je místo, kde Morby narazí na potíže: přílišným opřením o tropy z minulosti mu uniká příležitost bricolage se současností. Možná právě o to mu jde: konstrukce nebo tvorba z nejrůznějších dostupných věcí. Chaotická bricoláž alba je spojena do sjednocujícího gesta. S albem jsem však spokojen. Jeho pozorování vyžadují vnímání — možná Morbyho největší dovednost jakožto hudebníka. Spousta toho co vidí, je všední, ale je to Morbyho dar, že se fan nikdy necítí jeho hudbou znuděný. Za minulé album Oh My God mu dal Andy Beta 6.2, za ještě starší City Music Laura Snapes 8.1. Vůbec nejlépe dopadlo album Singing Saw: Mark Richardson mu přidělil 8.3. Teď mu dává Sophie Kemp o bod víc: 7.2.
★ Nejlepší je, když píše studie postav, které se staly téměř podpisem jeho kariéry. Často se jim říká křestními jmény: Na Sundowneru potkáváme Jamieho, který zemřel, když mu bylo 25; Desi, která se stala mořskou pannou; a Jessi, to je ta s krásným hlasem.
★ Morby je všechny miluje; můžete je vidět před očima blikat jako ze starých záběrů Super 8. Nejživější a nejsilnější okamžik nahrávky přichází v melodramatické sedmiminutové „Noc v malém Los Angeles“. Morby si představuje dívku, jak kouří cigarety na Mulhollandu, pláže s cukrem, tichý zvuk lidí, kteří mají sex ve vedlejší místnosti. Všimne si věcí, které je těžké chytit: svírání na hrudi; konverzace na pozadí s úředníkem v hotelu; nekonečný úsek Kansasu. Dávám 8. Pamatuj, že nahrávání probíhalo s producentem Bradem Cookem v texaském Tornillu, záměrně daleko od pobřeží, v srdci Ameriky. Morby hrál na většinu nástrojů sám. Birth name: Kevin Robert Morby
Born: April 2, 1988, Lubbock, Texas, United States
Location: New York ~ Montecito Heights, Los Angeles ~ Kansas City, Missouri
Recording: Sonic Ranch, Neve Room, Tornillo, Texas
Album release: October 16, 2020
Record Label: Dead Oceans
01. Valley 4:05
02. Brother, Sister 4:37
03. Sundowner 5:10
04. Campfire 5:19
05. Wander 1:55
06. Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun 5:22
07. A Night At The Little Los Angeles 7:11
08. Jamie 4:11
09. Velvet Highway 3:21
10. Provisions 5:37
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas; Score: ★★★½
★ When Kevin Morby was finishing work on what would become his ambitious and sprawling 2019 double album Oh My God, he switched gears considerably by working on demos for new songs on a cassette four~track in the unheated shed in his backyard. While the songs for Oh My God were thick with religious iconography and intense, often dense arrangements, the new songs that Morby found himself writing while working with this antiquated recording equipment were both warmer and more subdued by comparison. He fleshed out proper recordings of his demos before leaving for a lengthy tour, and left the new tunes for later as Oh My God was officially released. When the COVID~19 pandemic resulted in a complete cancellation of touring plans, Morby returned to the set of dusky, restrained songs he’d begun writing in his backyard shed and finished work on sixth album Sundowner. Arriving after the tremendous presence of Oh My God, Sundowner recalls the more relaxed and reflective moods of Morby’s earlier albums. The arrangements feel casual and spare, with songs like “Wander” embracing minimal roots rock and “Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun” finding his low~key vocals ambling sleepily along with lo~fi acoustic guitars and ragged drum machine rhythms. Morby’s core influences are present here as always, with a Leonard Cohen~esque rasp coming through in the vocals of the title track, Neil Young~modeled guitar leads on tunes like “Wander” and “Campfire,” and a strong Rolling Thunder Review~era Dylan undercurrent supporting the entire project.
★ Sundowner is a beautiful and mellow comedown from the grandiose and sometimes overwhelming energy of Oh My God. Though it’s not a direct reference point, it’s interesting to note the similarities between Sundowner and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. The stripped~down twilight moods of Nebraska also followed a monolithic double album (1980’s The River, coincidentally also Springsteen’s fifth) and found its start as rough four~track demos. Morby presents Sundowner with a similar offhand ease, if his songs center more around themes of personal reminiscence and insular perspectives than Nebraska’s songs of blue~collar struggle. Its gentle melancholy and unhurried tempos slowly melt into a sustained atmosphere, offering some of Morby’s gentlest and most captivating songs. — AMG
To Whom It May Concern,
I am here to announce that my new album, Sundowner, will be out October 16th, 2O2O via Dead Oceans.
(KANSAS CITY, KANSAS)
χ♦ In the winter of 2Ol7 I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City from Los Angeles. The move was sudden and unforeseen, just as I was tying a bow on the writing process for what would become my 2Ol9 album, Oh My God. I bought a Four Track Tascam model 424 off an old friend to help me get to the finish line, but much to my surprise and excitement, this new piece of equipment in my all~but~bare home didn’t help complete one album but rather inspire another: Sundowner. The new collection of songs came quickly and effortlessly as I did my best not to resist or refine the songs, but instead let them take shape all on their own.
χ♦ As the songs kept coming I cleared out the crowded shed that was sitting dormant in my backyard and built a makeshift studio before adding drums, lead guitar and piano to complete the demos. The shed had no cooling or heating unit at the time, so perhaps it is important to note that during the writing of this album I was either wearing multiple layers of clothing, or hardly any at all, season depending. Which is to say, it is an album written during extremes and subjected to the elements. In the summer, brown recluse spiders would scatter from beneath the Tascam when I entered the studio and in the winter, long glassy icicles hung from the storm drain as if the shed was wearing jewelry. Each day I would teach myself basic recording techniques, watching the channels illuminate and pulse as if the machine were breathing, and then emerge in the evenings as the sun was getting low: — around 5:30 in the winter, when the Kansan sunsets look icy and distant, like a pink ember inside of a display case, and 9 o’clock in the summer, when the sunsets are warm and abstract.
χ♦ I wrote the entire album wearing headphones, hunched over the 424, letting my voice and guitar pass through the machine, getting lost in the warmth of the tape as if another version of myself was living on the inside, singing back at me. I was mesmerized by the magic of the four track not only as a recording device, but also an instrument, and considered it my songwriting partner throughout the whole process.
χ♦ The weeks spent at home moved slow and easy with this simple routine, living back in a city I had feverishly escaped at 18. Landing back home felt jarring juxtaposed with a life full of chaos and adventure with my band on the road. But at the very least, I was happy to have — for the first time in my adulthood — a place to close the door, with no temptations other than to work on music and reflect on what I had built since I left. It was a new form of isolation, one I had never explored or expected to experience. Not ready to let go of the hand of the California desert, I spent the winter decorating the best I knew how; with mementos from my previous home, cactus and aloe vera and covering the walls in pinewood — immediately earning my house it’s nickname, The Little Los Angeles.
χ♦ The 194O’s era downtown of my suburb was quaint and warm, and though most businesses on the strip were often closed, I found joy in nightly walks past the one room movie theatre and the clock tower. It was, in its ways, my own anonymous and lonely oasis, giving me a clear view in which I could look back into my past with precision. I saw images of friends and landmarks morph in and out of one another before disappearing altogether, leaving me to wonder where everyone, and everything, eventually ends up. Over the span of one year the world saw the passing of Jessi Zazu, Richard Swift and Anthony Bourdain. I also mourned the lO year death anniversary of a best friend and forever muse, Jamie Ewing. I had first seen Jessi perform in a bar when she was l7 singing with her band Those Darlins. Hovering around five feet tall, her stage presence was larger than life, an icon ahead of her time. Richard Swift was a genius producer, musician and friend who helped me complete my album City Music and whose laugh I will forever miss. Anthony Bourdain, perhaps the last honorable spokesmen for America, left when we needed his voice most. The trifecta of these deaths dealt us all a sudden and devastating blow, leaving a void in the universe where their irreplaceable talent and personalities once were. But I soon saw them again, woven into the fabric of the new songs as their names fell out of my mouth and into the Tascam. If I had learned anything in the decade that Jamie had been gone from this earth, it’s that the fire of one’s life continues to billow long after it goes out.
χ♦ During that summer my isolation was given a subtle lift when Katie Crutchfield, who I had toured with the year previous, began visiting. A musician like me, she would stay weeks at a time, living quietly beside me — our love taking shape in a quiet refuge from our lives on the road. We shared many things, including a mutual melancholy that seemed to appear every night around sunset. We began to refer to ourselves as “sundowners.” But as the summer pressed on it was soon time for me to leave for an extensive tour that would take me to the end of 2Ol8. Nearly a year had passed since moving back home — twice as long as I had planned on staying, and the road beckoned. I left the new collection of songs, now a whole album’s worth, resting quietly inside the four track, back at home in The Little Los Angeles.
by Sophie Kemp ⌊OCTOBER 19 2020⌋ Score: 7.2