Published Oct 14, 2014Kevin Morby has spent the last few years as bassist of psych-folkies Woods and as one half of the Babies alongside former Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone, but he left both projects (for now, at least) to strike out on his own — a commendable move that is clearly paying off, if Still Life is any indication. Despite being Morby's eighth album between the three projects in six years, and coming less than a year after his debut solo LP, Harlem River, Still Life is a slick, full-bodied collection that shows that Morby has lots of sonic ideas, most of which are great.
Morby's jangly, mellow rock takes his work with the Babies and slows it down, which allows the instrumentation to breathe. Synth-glazed rocker "The Jester, The Tramp & The Acrobat" starts things off on a great note, and "The Ballad of Arlo Jones" is punchy and catchy, with a great shouting chorus. After this, the record slows down even more, with some lulling tracks like "Drowning" and "Dancer," but the melodies are still memorable despite the comparative slowness. Despite the album's quick shift to a slower gear after only a few tracks, there are still fantastic moments like the sublime "Parade," which sticks some nice horns and choir in the background to fill out the excellent tune with a light dab of gospel. Eight-minute penultimate track "Amen" also holds attention despite its runtime, with a great trumpet-led finale.
While it might sound like Morby and co. ran out of energy after the in-your-face flurry of "Arlo Jones," they use the slower speed of the rest of the record to flesh out some great passages. Tunes like "Jones" and "Parade" take completely different approaches to building flavourful rockers, with Morby as the talented common denominator. (Woodsist)