Kevin Morby
Sundowner


3.0
good

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
October 21st, 2020 | 16 replies


Release Date: 10/16/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Kevin Morby is as Kevin Morby does

Kevin Morby may never top Singing Saw. From a logical standpoint, I’m okay with that – the LP was a full-bodied folk gem that rolled all of Morby’s strengths as a songwriter into a tidy nine song package, and it was one of 2016’s best records. As someone who was hoping that he would evolve into the face of indie-folk, I’m a bit disappointed however. Morby has seemingly opted for quantity over quality, dropping three albums in the last four years (City Music, Oh My God, Sundowner) – and none of them come close to eclipsing Singing Saw’s mid-tier moments, let alone brilliant peaks like ‘I Have Been to the Mountain’, ‘Dorothy’, or ‘Destroyer’. Morby’s prolific output is admirable, but I would have rather seen him spend these past four years curating an album of only his best cuts. Instead, Sundowner continues in the lineage of its two predecessors: it’s an above average yet ultimately forgettable folk album with some direct hits lost in a sea of misses.

The moment on Sundowner that almost made me think Morby turned a corner was ‘Brother, Sister’. It’s the second song on the record, and it’s got quite the unnerving storyline: a man, deceased and living in his sister’s mind, urges her – through explicit direction – to kill a bunch of people as vengeance for his own death. With a creepily picked acoustic guitar line and thumping drums that mimic a heart pounding, it’s the opposite of City Music and Oh My God – it’s creative, catchy, and lyrically disconcerting. It’s the kind of song that, had Morby chosen to extrapolate its eerie themes and craft a concept album, would have seemed like a logical progression from Singing Saw’s mystical campfire folk. While death does appear to be a motif here – particularly on ‘Jamie’ and ‘Campfire’ – the rest of the album meanders rather aimlessly through acoustic, Dylan-wannabe balladry that lacks the storytelling prowess to bolster what is otherwise a lackluster batch of melodies. While many of the songs are merely forgettable, others falter enough to be downright annoying – such as ‘Wander’, which largely features Morby repeating the lines, “I wonder, as I wander / Why was I born in the wild wonder?” as if the wordplay was clever enough to emphasize.

Most of Sundowner isn’t that dreadful, though. ‘A Night at the Little Los Angeles’ is an accurate microcosm of the record: charmingly lo-fi, a bit overlong for what it is, and at times blush-inducing (“There's lovers in the bedroom next door, you can hear them through the paper walls / I'm 'bout to cum soon, baby, no wait for me, okay, now”). It seems like whenever Kevin Morby is just about to hit his stride, there’s a misstep that undoes his progress. In the aforementioned song, it’s that passage – which he curiously uses to bookend the seven minute long track – and on ‘Campfire’, it’s that Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) has her album-altering talents wasted on a few seconds of distant wailing, which Morby drowns into oblivion behind the sound of a crackling fire. It’s the way that Morby dangles the carrot that is most frustrating as a listener; he almost always showcases incredible potential, but rarely gives the ideas more than a half-hearted go. In the past we’ve witnessed the heights to which his music can aspire; unfortunately, Sundowner doesn’t come close. It’s still a well-produced record that plods along with a rustic charm and the occasional hook, but anyone who has followed Morby throughout his career knows he could be an icon in the modern indie-folk scene. Since 2017, however, it’s been a collage of pretty, forgettable albums. As it stands: Kevin Morby is as Kevin Morby does.



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user ratings (15)
3.2
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
October 21st 2020


36267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Decent album by an artist capable of quite a bit better. I actually really like the embedded track, and wish the rest of the album would have followed its lead.

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Sunnyvale
October 21st 2020


1845 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I was pretty disappointed by this album even though Kevin Morby hasn't done much exceptional since Singing Saw. Some of this is generic enough to be cringeworthy, and I feel like a 3 is generous. Nonetheless there are some great songs as well.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 21st 2020


62435 Comments


Where do you find these fucking dorks

Digging: MYSS KETA - IL CIELO NON E UN LIMITE

Crawl
October 21st 2020


2722 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I totally agree with the sentiment that Singing Saw is fantastic and everything released afterwards was a bitter disappointment. City Music had some great highlights (the title track in particular), but these last two albums are very boring.

Pajolero
October 22nd 2020


1134 Comments


I remember seeing this dude at this huge festival in Spain a couple of years ago. He played on one of the main stages but his set was scheduled to play so early there were maybe a hundred people in the crowd. Kinda felt sorry for the guy, he was pretty good.

Digging: Aesop Rock - Spirit World Field Guide

Krpa
October 22nd 2020


188 Comments


Please keep that average chart the way it is lol

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 23rd 2020


12330 Comments


agreed hard with everything in this review although i liked City Music a lot and Still Life rocks, but these last two have seemed very aimless

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2020


26123 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is great.. seems I'm the only one here who's sold on just about everything he's done, haha

Digging: Tired Lion - Breakfast for Pathetics

Crawl
October 29th 2020


2722 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

The instrumentation is subdued and sleepy with nothing to make up for it. His lyrics are average at best and his vocal delivery doesn't really stand out either. It's pleasant, but far from engaging.

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 29th 2020


36267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Atari, I loved Singing Saw but he fell off into mediocrity pretty sharply afterwards. I can see why someone would get into all of his albums if they adore his voice, not sure if that's the case for you but it definitely isn't for me lol. I need those mystical atmospheres, horns, upbeat guitars, etc. - all the things that made SS special.

theBoneyKing
October 29th 2020


19679 Comments


Yeah, I liked Singing Saw a lot (strong 3.5) but City Music basically killed any interest I had in checking his later stuff.

NorthernSkylark
October 29th 2020


10499 Comments


Same tbh. It’s a shame about Kevin.

Digging: Zach Bryan - Quiet, Heavy Dreams

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2020


26123 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You guys are bumming me out. This has some of the best tracks he’s done imo. Current favorites: Jamie, Velvet Highway, Campfire and Wander

NorthernSkylark
October 30th 2020


10499 Comments


And slaps a 3.5 on it

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 30th 2020


36267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wander is a contender for the worst song I've heard this year lol



Sorry Atari. I'm glad you like this so much; Morby is a decent artist overall so keep reppin'.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 31st 2020


26123 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Skylark, I’d give it higher than a 3.5 but despite some strong highlights it’s just a tad too long and inconsistent for its own good ;)



Could def see why one might find Wander a bit silly and lyrically repetitive but just find it to be a chill and reflective little jam. I think “Dorothy” is still my favorite song he’s ever done. I’ll admit Singing Saw is still his strongest I just wish I wasn’t the only one here who still feels moved by his music. But I’ll survive..



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