Kevin Morby

City Music

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Intended as a sort of companion piece to 2016's Singing Saw, City Music sees singer/songwriter Kevin Morby playing yin to the former's yang, trading comely pastoral tones for cool urban clamor. Much like Bob Dylan (an acknowledged and apparent influence), Morby is a native of the Midwest who began his career in New York, first as a member of bands like the Babies and Woods, then recast as an indie poet bard with a warm affinity for the city. Before decamping to Los Angeles, he released 2013's Harlem River, a folky Greenwich Village-indebted postcard to the city of his musical awakening. After a pair of records exploring his gentler West Coast side, Morby returns here to his New York muse, this time evoking some of the raw thrills of the CBGB crowd paired with a contemporary indie spirit all his own. Notably darker from the outset, he opens with the brooding rain-slick ballad "Come to Me Now," whose lush organ, distorted drums, and eerie whistle sample are as lonesome as the song's lyrics. Echoes of the Ramones and especially Jim Carroll -- whose "People Who Died" is referenced within -- can be heard in the rousing "1234," while Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground seem to lurk around every corner, from the gritty midtempo thump of "Aboard My Train" to the sleepy "Dry Your Eyes." In a brief spoken word interlude reciting from a Flannery O'Connor piece, fellow singer/songwriter Meg Baird sets up the album's title track in which twin guitars snake around in enchanting harmony like Television on morphine. As with his debut, City Music feels very much like a postcard to New York, though this time Morby arrives with some accumulated miles to help support his wizened tone.

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