Best-known for his fragile folksy reworking of Steve Winwood’s 80s hit, “Higher Love,” James Vincent McMorrow’s 2010 debut, Early In The Morning, was a wintry one-man-and-his-guitar affair which understandably drew comparisons with the likes of Bon Iver, Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne. The beard and flannel shirt appearance may still remain, but second album, Post Tropical, positions the Dubliner as an almost entirely different artist.
Indeed, with their spacious blend of digital beats, multi-tracked vocals and ghostly synths, these ten tracks have more in common with the otherworldly electronic R&B of McMorrow’s namesake James Blake than any of the acoustic troubadours he was lumped in with first time round.
But of course, James Vincent McMorrow’s astonishing vocal range ensures that Post Tropical remains utterly distinctive, most notably on lead single, “Cavalier,” a lush and poetic recollection of a first love featuring a falsetto so stratospheric that it makes Mariah Carey sound like a booming baritone.
Meanwhile, the country twangs and military rhythms of “The Lakes,” the swelling hymnal balladry of “Look Out” and the theatrical “Gold,” – which possesses an almost regal-like quality thanks to its stately bursts of brass – all prove that McMorrow’s production skills are just as magnetic.
As beautifully performed as they are, the melodies on the album’s languid second half sadly don’t quite reach the same standard. After all the talk of being inspired by his “early experiments in recreating the works of N.E.R.D.,” it’s disappointing that the tempo rarely moves beyond walking pace.
But James Vincent McMorrow also recently claimed that instead of relying on well-worn ideas, “it’s a musician’s responsibility to make new and interesting things.” And few could argue that with Post Tropical, he hasn’t delivered on both counts.