Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Gold” by James Vincent McMorrow from the 2014 album Post Tropical on Vagrant Records.
Although he started his career as an impassioned, folk singer whose emotional timbre was only matched by his quivering falsetto, Dublin’s James Vincent McMorrow has shifted gears with the release of his second album, the shimmering, electronic Post Tropical. Initially beginning his musical career as a punk drummer in his late teens, his discovery of the mid-late ’00s folk-influenced wave of indie rock (Band of Horses, Illinois-era Sufjan Stevens) led McMorrow to go down a different musical path that included a few years spent in Irish bars and a solitary recording session on the Irish coast, resulting in his 2010 debut Early In The Morning. A critical and commercial success in his native country and the UK, McMorrow sought to make a followup record that reflected the music he listened to in his spare time. That record eventually became Post Tropical, a glacial, glossy, horn-driven record that sounds like something Justin Vernon would have made if he built his home studio in Hawaii rather than Wisconsin and listened to more Brian Wilson than Bonnie Raitt. It’s nearly impossible to see McMorrow writing a song like “Gold” in his former mindset. Musically, a wave of textural harps and blaring horns take the place of an acoustic guitar, and tonally, McMorrow trades solemn earnestness for something delicate, pristine, and, most of all, jubilant. When he layers his voice into a repeating chant of “time isn’t the only power now” in the song’s coda, he sounds undeniably victorious, a musician who has completely rebuilt himself into something more beautiful than his previous material had even hinted at.
James Vincent McMorrow is in the midst of a tour behind Post Tropical that will stop in Seattle on March 21 at the Crocodile. Get tickets and more info on that all-ages show here, keep up with JVM on his Facebook and website, and watch him play “Gold” on Ireland’s The Late Late Show below.