James Vincent McMorrow's album True Care is a game-changer

James Vincent McMorrow's latest album is True Care.
James Vincent McMorrow's latest album is True Care.PHOTO: FACTION RECORDS

Barely 10 months after his third record We Move, James Vincent McMorrow is, well, on the move. The 34-year-old Irishman has quietly dropped True Care, a record produced in a speedy five months, but which feels like a true game-changer.

"True care/What does that even mean?" he asks in the title track, a confession alternately stalling and spilling, hinting at a memory when he was 23.

"When you showed up to a house/ Where I was drinking by myself/By the door/Spilling liquid on a carpet," he shares a real-life situation, seared through silence and a languorous R&B beat that is dredged through mud.

The Dubliner has ventured from the generic indie-folk template of his 2010 debut Early In The Morning, but in a curious way, it felt like he had to travel far and wide in order to come home.

Another song, National, chronicles another private moment, one of connection and empathy. So private, it feels the listener is intruding.

"We'd spend our nights listening to The National/That was special/Even though your car was small," he sings in his trademark falsetto over sparse piano. For three minutes or so, it feels that all mortal concerns - particularly his tendency to "panic and worry" - are banished to outer space and he is thankful for that.



    James Vincent McMorrow

    Faction Records

    4/5 stars

This fear, irrational and inveterate, gnaws at the core of the upbeat track titled Thank You.

"I have that dream/Every move/ We would make/Was a gruesome/ Terror," he confesses over a 1980s- sounding hip-hop groove, brass jabs and slippery synths. The words constitute the nightmare of a recluse who prefers the heath of loneliness, yet hankers for understanding and warmth from another human being.

The contrarian approach - the gap between intent and form - lends tension, an unexpectedness at the array of challenges life deals.

Bears is another quizzical outlier, inspired by an encounter with a black bear that appeared when he and his band were doing sound checks at Mishawaka Amphitheatre, an outdoor concert venue in Bellvue, Colorado.

"It dawned on me that if that bear wanted, he could come down here and mess us up pretty badly," he said in an annotation for the song's lyric.

"When the bears/They come/You won't/Have long," he delivers his line, cut-up into staccato clauses as beats flutter like butterflies over glowering synths.

That happiness and danger can exist side by side lends to a realisation about the state of the world.

"Violence on the streets everywhere you go," goes another refrain, over a breezy melody line that you cannot help but sing along to.

Shaded with light and darkness, optimism and desperation, McMorrow does not flinch from life. Everything is at risk. Everything is worth it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Fine line between light and darkness'. Print Edition | Subscribe