- Audio CD (June 16, 2017)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Dead Oceans
- ASIN: B06XSLMXBD
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,684 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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City Music is an airplane descending over frozen lakes into Chicago. City Music is riding the Q Train out to Coney Island to smell the ocean and a morning in Philadelphia where great cranes reconfigure the buildings like an endless puzzle. City Music is also the new album by Kevin Morby. Full of listless wanderlust, it's a collection inspired by and devoted to the metropolitan experience across America and beyond by a songwriter cast from his own mould. It is a collection crafted using the other side of its creator's brain, the jumping off point perhaps best once again encapsulated by an image. "Here, Lou Reed and Patti Smith stare out at the listener," explains Morby. City Music sees Morby joined once again by cohorts Megan Duffy (guitar) and Justin Sullivan (drums). Here the vocals were recorded at night, in darkness, overlooking a Pacific Ocean illuminated only by the stars, the wash and whisper of the ebbing tidal a distant soundtrack. The record was completed with Richard Swift in Oregon (producer of Foxygen, sometime member of The Black Keys). Here the album gives voice to all those cities speaking the same universal language of chaos and commerce and culture.
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Top customer reviews
The mystery of City Music begins the moment the needle drops on the record and we hear Morby playing a 19th century pump organ on the staid "Come to Me." An accompanying distorted drum sound adds even more wonder to an already slow-burning gem of an opener. On the 105-second scorcher "1234," we are treated to a hard-rocking joyous tribute to the Ramones by way of Jim Carroll, whose name-dropping of "People Who Died" is cleverly replaced by the names of the historic band's members. "Pearly Gates" offers a playful meditation on death, where the dreamy vocal interplay between the singer and backing vocalists shines through in spades. Then there's the glorious buildup and release of the title song, where the twin-guitar attack of Morby and lead guitarist Meg Duffy in the final 2:45 reminds us of Television's best. Such buildup and release also works effectively on "Tin Can" and the uplifting VU-esque "Aboard My Train," where the singer-songwriter recounts his enjoyment of riding NYC's subways. Elsewhere, Morby's sleepy melancholy serves a song like "Dry Your Eyes" well while falling a bit flat on his overly laid-back cover of Germs' "Caught in My Eye."
For better or worse, Kevin Morby's reputation in the music press of channeling Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and especially Lou Reed (on tracks like "Crybaby," "Aboard My Train," and "Downtown's Light") will undoubtedly be further cemented with this release, but I'd argue that it would be a grave mistake to pigeonhole him as a mere revivalist. This music is too fresh, thought-provoking, and lovingly crafted to be lazily labeled as such. I prefer to think of it as an enchanting diary of a true individualist.
(almost 4.5 stars)
There are a few tracks that divert from the theme - 1234 sounds like the Modern Lovers as Jim Carroll singing of the Ramones who have also all passed on from the NYC scene, and the seven minute centerpiece, City Music, sounds like Reed fronting Television, truly cutting loose mid song. The rest though sounds all Velvets influenced to me. Crybaby is a more languid Heroin. Aboard My Train makes a fitting sequel after climbing on board the Train Round the Bend. And Tin Can could be viewed as Reed observing his city in the afterlife from his Satellite of Love way up in the sky. Maybe I am attributing too many linkages here, but regardless, the prolific Morby is immensely talented - witness last year's excellent Singing Saw - and has upped the ante considerably for year end best lists. Excellent and tuneful.
Also reviewed on my Instagram: finelytunedsounds