Album Review: James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

London – Early 2014 sees the return of James Vincent McMorrow with his sophomore album Post Tropical.  After the success of his widely-acclaimed, and platinum selling, debut album Early in the Morning, McMorrow had already hinted at heading down a more R&B route this time round, and a video for the album’s opener “Cavalier” released in late 2013 gave further credibility to these claims.  In an area of the market already pretty saturated with the likes of Bon Iver, James Blake, Jamie Woon and The Weeknd, how does Post Tropical go about standing out from the crowd?

“Cavalier” is a strong start. As is the case with many tracks of this ilk, less is often more, and the sparse nature of the music leaves you hanging on every word of McMorrow’s unfathomably high pitched vocals.  Drums make an appearance midway through the song which serve to fill out the sound, but despite being much more abrasive than any other instrument, still find themselves playing second-string to the vocal line which weaves in an out impressively.

McMorrow has often commented on his passion for experimenting with instrumentation and this is both more evident and effective on Post Tropical with early tracks “The Lakes” and “Gold” both a far cry from his folky-foundations.  Those expecting the singer-songwriter’s delicate acoustic guitars will be left a tad disappointed as “Red Dust” again steers clear of his 6 stringed companion, instead preferring an 808 drum machine and mellow synth.

This theme continues throughout the record as “Glacier”, with its handclaps, drums and synth, and title track “Post Tropical” continue to challenge the listener’s expectations of the Irishman.  The songs are undeniably gorgeous and the one similarity with Early in the Morning is how perfect an accompaniment to a chilled-out evening the album is.  It’s warm and comforting, and without too many changes to tempo or volume which makes it hugely relaxing.

The one disappointment with the album, if you were to be picky, is that McMorrow’s debut was a platinum selling record because people loved the music he was making.  Mainly armed just with his guitar, his extraordinary voice didn’t need any digital trickery.  There’s the slight feeling that three years after the release of Early in the Morning, McMorrow was worried about just producing more of the same and being typecast.  However, weirdly in 2014 this would have helped him stand out from the crowd as so many have gone down the ‘Bon Iver’ route after seeing the massive success of Justin Vernon and co.

All told though, the album is another wonderful creation from James Vincent McMorrow.  The use of the digital instrumentation is clever and not overdone.  There’s a danger that an artist working in this way for the first time can get a little carried away with samples and synths but Post Tropical is fantastically restrained.  The album is irrefutably likable and the singer’s voice simply stunning.  It’s so easy to create a big sounding voice on record with all the technology currently available, but to strip it back to bare bones and still be blown away is an impressive feat.  Hopefully McMorrow will revisit some of the acoustic music which helped make his name in 2010, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t have an issue with him producing more music like this.

For more on James Vincent McMorrow go HERE.