Kevin Morby: City Music (Dead Oceans) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Kevin Morby

City Music

Dead Oceans

Jun 13, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

On his fourth album, City Music, Kevin Morby continues to pencil in the definition of his artistic persona. The Kansas City transplant already offered his musical homage to New York City with 2013’s Harlem River. Now, City Music is a levitating glimpse into the city experience in general, with an expansion of urban ambience that feels physical and interactive through these vintage tunes enhanced with modern amplification.

It’s a stroll through a thrift shop with a wardrobe door into urban lore. Through its course, we travel alongside Morby from the morning and warily into the night into the myriad pockets of bustling city life, indoors and out. With vivid literary reportage in the spirit of Ginsberg and Kerouac, Morby’s words tell of the lone, wide eyed city newcomer who has rolled into town and longs for connection and tangibility of its fabric.

The ghosts of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground are felt strongly, which is quite welcome when done with honor and conviction. In fact there are recurring vestiges to the iconic groups of the Danny Fields era of punk and folk rock, maybe none more direct than “1234,” a clear tribute to The Ramones, who were one of Morby’s greatest early influences.

Morby’s lackadaisical vocal delivery is actually brimming with alert observation and hovers somewhere between Reed and Bob Dylan. Title track “City Music” wakes up slowly and makes a cup of morning tea before it goes and gets itself in one big hurry, into the traffic jams and pulsations of commute on “Aboard My Train” and “Tin Can,” and then trails off into quiet evening moments in dim rooms and breezy walks on “Night Time” and “Downtown’s Lights.” Throughout, the dirty guitars and cigarette ash dusted drums of ‘60s and ‘70s rock are resurrected. “Dry Your Eyes” takes you to a Greenwich Village back room late at night, setting the drums and guitars in the background enough to conjure the musty music club imagery, adding doo-wop crooners for added euphonious transport. It all amounts to an evocative conveyance of setting.

If last year’s Singing Saw had the pace and feel of going down river, City Music has that of heading down the avenue. Morby vacillates in both settings comfortably, claiming them as his element. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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January 31st 2018

Learn what you need to by understanding lyrics deeper from your favorite music you like so much. Ask yourself, why do we enjoy songs so much? Is it because of how it sounds or because we are comprehending the story of what they tell us. Do you relate to that story?