Things to know about Kevin Morby: he played bass in the noise-folk group Woods; he was in a band called The Babies with Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone; he’s lived in various places in the US (Texas, New York, LA, Kansas); he’s recorded six solo abums and this, Sundowner, is his seventh.
If you’re coming to Sundowner fresh (i.e. it’s your first Morby) there are things that it’s worth knowing. Like, there are times when Morby out nasals Dylan. If you’ve never quite warmed to Dylan because of that nasal drawl, then Morby is very definitely not for you. You’ll be yelling “Blow your nose, man” at the stereo before the first song is out of the gate.
For the most part, Morby deals in plaintive acoustica. The album opens with ‘Valley’, a pleasant enough strum offset by Morby’s slightly mystical ode to the night sky and the stars which have got themselves broken somehow. ‘Brother, Sister’ follows, a faltering hop and a skip refrain delivered in a not un-Berninger-esque vocal (and a chorus of “bum-bum-ba-bum-bum” that may either enchant or annoy, depending on your tolerance for such things).
Title track ‘Sundowner’ blows the cobwebs away. It’s the kind of song you can imagine Josh Ritter penning. It’s pretty in that rueful sort of way, a song you can imagine being written at the end of a shitty day when Morby was looking for hope only his acoustic could provide. If you wanted to dive in and see whether you would like this or not, ‘Sundowner’ is the track to listen to. You like that, you may like the rest.
As the album proceeds, the acoustic is occasionally laid to rest alongside some sweetly twiddly electric (‘Campfire’ which also features actual campfire), scratchy electric and harmonica (‘Wander’) and, of all things, glockenspiel (‘A Night at The Little Los Angeles’) and piano (‘Velvet Highway’). It’s simple (or it sounds simple to the ear at least) and, for the most part, sunshine-y (in a ‘hey I’ve lived in LA and probably rubbed shoulders with Mac DeMarco’ kind of way).
At its best, you can imagine rolling out Sundowner for a listen on slightly hungover Sunday mornings, music that you would rub your fingers along like polished wood. At its worst, it can be a little too much in thrall to its influences. Amiable, then, without possibly being essential.
Words by Pete Wild