Review Summary: Simply Gorgeous.
There’s something to be said for the way empathy permeates at the core of all good lyrical music. That something about music that just gets
how we’re feeling. Through a simple comparing of emotions and a back and forth of relation and comparison, we share things emotionally with music that we wouldn't other art. James Vincent McMorrow’s sophomore effort is brilliant exposition of this train of thought, dealing in abstraction, fragments, and imagism in a way that relates moods of isolation and loneliness into sweet textures and ethereal longing. In its interpretation, abstraction is what makes music an act of disclosure. On album opener, “Cavalier,” instead of presenting anecdotal evidence, McMorrow just leaves the crux of the song as “I remember my first love.” There’s a history there, and you can hear it. But it’s the abstraction, the looking on it as something past – that somehow allows the listener to echo themselves into the song’s words. Music as being inclusive; the ability to express when one listens - this is music’s greatest triumph, and it’s in full display on Post Tropical
The nature of the record, that is finding meaning in nature to tell of emotional turmoil or eventual catharsis, is the theme replicated in the music here, and it largely follows suit paved through other genre cohorts (as a side note, McMorrow's career trajectory has a little too closely followed that of Bon Iver's - the flannel adorning folk début; the move to delicate piano arrangements and empyreal aesthetics).These mostly draw from the thematic overlaps within McMorrow’s expression; a sense of isolation pervades much of the record. And while love is somewhat a theme, it isn't given precedence over isolation, or the reoccurring winter/summer motif. McMorrow isn't in love, or getting over love, but simply observing it. There are few times where the emotions boil over; McMorrow gets his most purposeful and directive on the deliciously aggressive title track, for example. “How can anyone, move on?” He yelps, diving into a brassy, reverberating verse, before departing into a sliding string stretch that recalls something of Bahamas or Beach House.
On the music side of things, the production is great – McMorrow’s voice is present in a way that isn't grating and he seems warmly present, his breathy mid-range propitiating the albums wintry themes. “The Lakes” and “All Points” really just set up the conceptual summer/winter motif (a musical version of what cinematography is to cinema) that’s gorgeously represented on the albums cover. Perhaps this is one of the albums few trappings: McMorrow talks about weather a lot. McMorrow tries to draw a link between nature and general well-being; sometimes it works: “I was, I was in the dark” and sometimes it doesn't “I want to go / south of the river.”
Emotionally weighted in parts, and successfully removed in others, Post Tropical
resembles an album that tempers with the things that matter to most, if not all of us – love, loss, resolution. Furthermore, the delivery of such themes is astounding, if anything. Listen to the record solely for McMorrow’s voice; he possesses a sonority you could only achieve with that achingly high-pitched voice. Post Tropical
is a successful move from the guitar straddled folk songs of his début, but it’s also a fully realised album in its own right, conceptually and thematically; Post Tropical is an album for sombre moods; an album for ablution.