The sophomore album tends to make or break an artist’s career, no more so than when you’re lumped into the folk/indie genre. It’s not an easy thing to follow up an album that was so well received; it’s also not particularly easy to follow it up with something so completely removed from everything James Vincent McMorrow has built his career on.
The sudden shift seen on ‘Post Tropical’ compared to his debut release is almost a deterrent. The gap between the two albums is that vast.
With the occasional drum machine taking its place throughout the record, hip-hop inspirations and comparisons are drawn haphazardly from the well of journalistic cliches, looking for something to generalise James Vincent McMorrow’s new outing. Minimalist electronics make it stand out as reminiscent of James Blake and Bon Iver if nothing else.
As with his previous endeavour, the most noteworthy aspect of James Vincent McMorrow is his falsetto, and how it laces through his music so beautifully. Look no further than Red Dust for that old familiar sound that encapsulated his previous album. But it’s his unique fusion of instrumental melodies that set him apart. From his incredible use of 50 mandolins in The Lakes to the 808 in Red Dust, McMorrow creates a highly textural yet minimalistic sound that hooks you from beginning till end.
“Sometimes my hands they don’t feel like my own / I need someone to love / I need to hold” repeats with security in its simplicity.
Much of Post Tropical follows the example set by Cavalier, the first single taken from the album. McMorrow masterfully layers vocals, synths and soft percussion, while simultaneously crafting silence into an instrument of its own. The song instantly hooks the listener as it quietly builds from poignantly hushed keys and nostalgic falsetto to a crescendo of clashing cymbals and soaring brass.
This album is leaps and bounds from anything we’ve come to expect of the soft spoken, bearded Irish man, known for locking himself in isolation when writing.
There’s something reassuringly wonderful in James Vincent McMorrow’s willingness to take risks. Where most acts will follow what made them successful on their previous endeavours, he’s taking chances and in doing so has created one of the better records to come out of Ireland. An alluring and noteworthy album.