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Post Tropical

James Vincent McMorrow

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Album Review

Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow turns expectations upside down on Post Tropical, his follow-up to debut, Early in the Morning. Though that record reached number one and went platinum in the U.K. with its quirky, folksy meld of soft vocals and acoustic and electric guitars. McMorrow shifts gears entirely here. Recorded in a Texas studio between the Rio Grande and Mexico, its production textures are made up of electronic beats, electric guitars, synths, samplers, and piano and other sundry instruments, mostly played by the artist. At the humid center of it all is McMorrow's tender, quietly passionate and soulful falsetto, hovering, haunting and diving into lyrics that are fraught with longing, desire, hope, passion, and sometimes desperation. Post Tropical is, at heart, a poetic soul record, albeit of the 21st century variety — there isn't anything remotely retro here. First single and opening track "Cavalier" opens with a skeletal electric piano. McMorrow enters immediately. Guided by his voice, he gradually builds the tune into a breathtaking, lush soundscape. Even the horns and female backing vocals (provided by sleeve designer Emma Doyle) are so tastefully placed, they underscore the romance, haunted ache, and longing in his delivery. "Red Dust" commences with wordless call-and-response vocals, answered by a piano and his proper entrance with the lyrics, crooning into the rhythms as well as above them. McMorrow's stacked backing voices add texture to the simple melody while deep beats add dimension, creating a sense of desperation: "...Sometimes my hands/they don't feel like my own/I need someone to love/I need someone to hold...." "Gold" offers Baroque horns, layers of guitars, basses, and snares; they circle around the vocal to create a glorious, soul-infused pop. The title track opens with a lithe keyboard pulse and a subdued horn arrangement, as drums, fat brass, and a throbbing synth bassline create a sonic maelstrom, but the singer, aided by numerous backing vocal layers, rises to meet them. Suddenly it all drops as the sound of a steel guitar playing a melody reminiscent of Nigerian high life enters to create a sharp contrast and it becomes an intimate, sunny groover. "Glacier" opens as a piano ballad but its handclaps, drums, beats, synths, strings, and choral backing transform it into a nearly jaunty pop number. Its well-crafted songwriting, enigmatic production, and arrangements, around McMorrow's gorgeous voice make Post Tropical a stunner start to finish. Fans of James Blake's Overgrown and Bon Iver's self-titled second album should find this appealing, but this stands apart from both those records. It's not only smart, it's honest, emotionally and musically.

Customer Reviews

What a beautiful sound!

Do you ever have those moments where you don't think you can love someone more than you already do but then they do something that blows you away and all of a sudden you do?? That is my feelings with McMorrow's new sound. I've been a huge fan for quite awhile now and didn't think I could love his music anymore but this song has changed it all. It is different from his previous stuff but it is welcome and well-received. Waiting until January for the rest is going to be pure torture. Do yourself a favor and give this a listen. You won't regret it.

Put on your headphones

James has done it again, but in a completely new way. This album is exactly that: an Album. It calls you to listen to it as a full piece, not singles (although each song can be listened to and enjoyed independently). Post Tropical is reminiscent of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" and and Bon Iver's "Bon Iver" in that they almost totally reject the previous acoustic-based album and instead bring forth a sonic boom and leave the listener asking the question, "how did he make that sound?!"
Do yourself a favor and put on your headphones; this album deserves your full attention.

Worth your listen.

Unbelievably beautiful, emotional album. A different sound from his debut album, remaining true to his lyrical styling.


Born: January 14, 1983 in Dublin, Ireland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Irish singer/songwriter James Vincent McMorrow didn't begin his musical life until he was well into his teens. Initially a drummer, he was drawn to the harsher sounds of At the Drive-In, Refused, and Glassjaw. He mellowed some while at college, where he discovered the more acoustic-oriented sounds of Sufjan Stevens and Band of Horses. He picked up a guitar at 19 after hearing Donny Hathaway's "I Love You More Than You Will Ever Know," and began writing songs and digging into the music of the '70s...
Full Bio

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