Formats and Editions
By Ian Bremner, Easy Street Records
Leaving the artistic hotbed of New York city can sometimes draw different forms of inspiration, and a bit of California air can do the body and mind good. When Kevin Morby moved westbound to the hills outside of Los Angeles, a piano from the previous tenants greeted him. Though a beginner at the piano, Morby quickly picked up some essential chords and thus, began the initial foundation for his beautiful new album, Singing Saw.
Morby, who has played bass with WOODS, and founded the band Babies, is one of the purest songwriters in recent memory. His third solo album, Singing Saw, is as smooth of a record as you could ask for. The nine-track record flows beautifully with sparse, but lush, natural sounds with enough acoustic and electric guitar with sweet piano to bring it all together. At the forefront however, remains the voice and words of Kevin Morby.
The west coast breeze, sun-covered hills and city lights of Los Angeles in the background almost become real life to the listener, but he makes it apparent that not all sunny days are happy days. Beneath the beauty of the arrangements, there is a present darkness to the lyrics. Singing Saw manages to bring the gritty New York alleyways to the bright greenery of California. A clearing in the fog. A hole in the clouds.
Morby opens Singing Saw with "Cut Me Down", a song of tears, debts and a prescient vision of being reduced to nothing. "I Have Been to the Mountain", "Destroyer" and "Black Flowers" continue to explore beauty and freedom, seizing upon the rot that seeps into even the supposedly safest of realms; peace, family and romantic love. By the end of the record on "Water", Morby is literally begging to be put out once and for all, like a fire that might burn all the visions away. Travels beyond his mountain walks, near his Mount Washington home in Los Angeles, inform songs like "Dorothy", which recounts a trip to Portugal, witnessing a fishing ritual and luxuriating in the aura of a bar light-tinged reunion with old friends. The touching innocence of "Ferris Wheel" stands alone in stark simplicity amidst the lush sonic textures of the album. Here, the album is balanced by Morby's signature sweetness and joie de vivre. In the end, Morby fulfills the promise many heard on his first two albums, bringing his most realized effort of songwriting and lyricism to fruition. The songs of Singing Saw reflect the clarity that comes from welcoming change and embracing duality, and the distillation of those elements into an entirely new vision.