James Vincent McMorrow, Post Tropical

Garrett Kamps

By Garrett Kamps

on 01.14.14 in Reviews

Post Tropical, the Irish troubadour James Vincent McMorrow’s self-produced sophomore effort, is a dramatic musical transformation — a lush, immersive, dramatic set mixing bits of R&B, soul, gospel and the subdued brand of UK dubstep popularized by James Blake. The album nods to D’Angelo as much as to Bon Iver and bears little resemblance to his debut, a delightful record in its own right, but one whose songs were mostly roots- and skiffle-inflected folk, guitar-driven with flourishes of banjos and horns.

A dramatic musical transformation

Nothing here sounds like that. “Cavalier” is silky R&B, right down to its slinking bass lead-in, featuring undulating Fender Rhodes chords and JVM’s stratospheric falsetto; “Glacier” begins as a heartrending piano ballad before exploding into a choral anthem. “Red Dust” opens with 808 kicks and McMorrow’s sampled vocals, throws in some handclaps and sampled steel drums, then languidly strips each layer away, revealing piano chords and McMorrow singing, over and over, “I need someone to love I need someone to hold,” sustaining the last note as if he were Mariah Carey.

Of course, this is not the first time an Irishman has adventurously crossed genres in search of gut-wrenching songs, and if Post Tropical earns McMorrow comparisons to countryman Van Morrison then so much the better. His voraciousness and depth of feeling here are astounding.