John Moreland: LP5 (Old Omens) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, April 6th, 2020  

John Moreland

LP5

Old Omens

Feb 07, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


If the titling of Oklahoma singer/songwriter John Moreland's LP5 is not a direct reference to FKA twigs' LP1, the line between the two works is not as indirect as one would think. The boldness of the naming convention signals something of import and that is undoubtedly true in both cases. What may not be so expected here is that Moreland grafts elements of glitch pop onto the sturdy frames of his songs. If not the full asymmetrical kaleidoscope of what gives the best glitch its staying power, there are more than enough cracks in LP5's architecture to make it Moreland's best and most interesting outing yet.

Partnering with producer Matt Pence (Midlake, Jason Isbell), Moreland maintains his masterful lyrical command while allowing for a blurring of normally crisp lines. The opening "Harder Dreams" starts with Moreland's warmly cavernous vocals and acoustic guitar, but a minute in gives way to skittery synths and a woodblock drum machine beat. The effects add a dose of anticipation to a song that adroitly tackles international discord and relates it to the personal. Fortunately, "Harder Dreams" is not a one-off experiment and Moreland continues to weave heady missteps throughout the album.

The following "A Thought Is Just a Passing Train" works in a bluesy construct with Moreland's vocals lightly processed. The song shows what Sturgill Simpson could have accomplished on last year's Sound and Fury if he would have left the vitriol behind. If "Train" is the album's most blustery, "East October" is on par with Moreland's most heartfelt to date. Not only does the echo heavy backbeat transfix, but Moreland's tribute to a departed friend also finds a heavy depth. His recollection of time on the road with Chris Porter is emotionally and evocatively captured: "we were children dressed up like men."

It would be easy to work through a song-by-song review of LP5's strengths as it has no weak moments. Only the closing track foregoes any tweaks, with even the beautifully tinged instrumental "Two Stars" having its share of bent notes. The sturdy grooves and phase shifts of "Terrestrial" make it a later album highlight. While Moreland also lands more than an ample share of perfect lines over the course of the album. Try "talk is cheap, but man so are we" on for size.          

LP5 has what so many other worthy singer/songwriter albums fail to deliver on—infinite replayability. It only takes a few listens for the errant beats and bleeps to implant themselves, with repeated listens falling into their chiseled out channels. No doubt Moreland's already established songwriting skills are fully intact, but pushing on the sonic boundaries of the genre are what gives LP5 its edge. (www.johnmoreland.net)

Author rating: 8/10

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