Published Sep 02, 2016James Vincent McMorrow is a man of contradictions. His last album, Post-Tropical, had a colourful beach scene on the cover, but was filled with pristine, icy-cool, R&B-inflected pop. His latest is titled We Move, but features very static, minimalist cover art; it's said to be his rawest grapple yet with anxiety, but it's full of lush, buoyant pop songs.
These contradictions are captivating. McMorrow started in the same falsetto-folk style as Bon Iver, but the catchy pop production here should bump him closer to Sam Smith-levels of success. His smoky falsetto persists, but is more fully developed and, like Smith, is aided by gospel-tinged backups. However, where similar artists might focus on love songs, JVM "lies awake at night" wondering "if he's evil" on "I Lie Awake Every Night," where he almost casually sings about putting "my head through a window instead of talking." The lyrics of "Evil" seem to confront similar material to the National's "Conversation 16" — that is, the struggle of maintaining a relationship while dealing with anxiety that verges on self-hatred.
The producers at work here, Nineteen85, Two Inch Punch and Frank Dukes, have worked with Drake, Sam Smith, Rihanna and more between them. The aforementioned "Evil" features a pitch-shifted vocal sample that evokes Justin Bieber and Skrillex's "What Do U Mean," while "Killer Whales" has the sort of post-dubstep sub-bass mixed with a clicking rim-taps also popular in that style.
For those who think of Bieber, Smith and their ilk as guilty pleasures, or who just wish there was a little more "substance" to their lyrics, We Move is for you. The music is calculated to make you want to move your body, but McMorrow's perseverance through mental illness will move your mind. (Dine Alone)