Kevin Morby

Oh My God

Dead Oceans

May 01, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Although he doesn't consider himself necessarily "religious," Kevin Morby has noticed the general devotional theme running through his music. On Morby's latest album, Oh My God, the singer/songwriter further explores this dynamic with 14 new tracks. 

A fair amount of Oh My God (its mood, even the record's title itself) seems inspired by Morby's 2016 single, the hymn-like "Beautiful Strangers"a protest song released in the midst of Black Lives Matter fervor. At the time of the single's release, Morby had only just begun to demonstrate his auteurship abilities and deep lyrics. But now, three years later, Oh My God has emerged: an artistic achievement for Morby, this record commendably establishes him as a mainstay in modern music.

"I've now gotten the keys to my own little kingdom," says Morby of the process of making his fifth solo album. "And I'm devoting so much of my life to music that I just want to keep it interesting." Oh My God, therefore, could be considered a conept, or "devotional" album-not ostensibly "religious" as such, only in the sense that Morby has realized the "God" he devotes his life to is music. Perhaps overtly cliched, yes, but Morby pulls it off in style. The resulting record is a mix of secular and divine: a record of patience, stillness, and Morby's trademark soft-spoken folk-rock.

There are rather obvious gospel influences on this record that come with the territory, and plenty of folk and blues influences which abound on Morby's past work. But where Oh My God differs completely from the rest is in the increasingly sophisticated lyrics that Morby uses to drive these songs along, and the calm maturity with which Morby sings.

Album opener, "Oh My God," sees Morby take a seat at the piano. Album singles, "No Halo" and "Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild," cleanse the palate and present a sharp autobiographical lens. The songs "Hail Mary" and "Piss River" are lengthy poems in and of themselves, the latter of which a significant departure from 2013's "Harlem River"which, at the time, was one of Morby's densest tracks.

All over this record, piano supercedes Morby's guitar. The saxophone, however, is the hidden guest on these tracks: where it appears, Morby's lyrics become more soulful, more introspective. Later on, more of Morby's personality shines through on songs such as "Savannah" and "O Behold."

A double LP, Oh My God seems to present a logical break at "Storm (Beneath the Weather)," calmly splitting the LP into halves. The track "Congratulations" assumes the role of a kind of entrance to an album afterlife. The tail end of the record waxes more folksy: "I Want to Be Clean" and "Sing a Glad Song" feature more standard Morby song structures, while "Ballad of Faye" is moodier and more discordant than the rest. (www.kevinmorby.com)  

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John Smith
May 3rd 2019
2:12am

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