Within the songwriter/downtrodden troubadour ranks Kevin Morby has become a constant confidant. His literate drawl draws out this generation’s atrocities like venom from a bite. His guitars are slung loose and limber, right up until they light a fire under your feet. He’s always had something of a spiritual bent, not religious mind you, but there are some songwriters whose poetry reaches the pulpit without seeking to save. Seems he’s just now embracing it as well and thus, Oh My God is born. The album is a shift for the songwriter, pushing his guitar to the side in favor of a wiped whiteboard relatively free of jangle and strum (though a few solos still crinkle the kindling here and there). In place of his usual tangle there’s a folkloric spread, thrown wide to the panorama of sound – horns hum, flutes tan the timbres, pianos pound from barroom to bedroom and choirs seem to fill the fields rather than the pews of his songs.
There album is conceptually spiritual, seeing the title’s phrase as not a vanity taken lightly, but a hosiah of faith – a mantra that brings us closer in times of calamity. Morby spends the majority of Oh My God helping his flock find the dock in a flood that threatens to consume us all. If ever there was a year for a plea to the powers that be, whether cosmic or of the cloth, it might be 2019. Morby connects to the idea of faith and keeps it a thread in the album’s twisting narrative. His faith isn’t necessarily in the god that pops up in picture books and Sunday service, but a faith in people, faith in art and beauty, faith in the ground beneath his feet, even when he’s 30,000 feet above it.
Woven within his spiritual tableau is a thread of dreams, a waking life conversation with himself that feels hallucinatory. Within Oh My God there’s a Lynchian grandiosity, an idea that what’s been perceived as real may just be reflections and that modern ghost, fables, and prophecies might just be the ones out to get us all along. It’s a big, bold move from Morby and one he pulls off with grace and gravitas. For a weighty double LP, there’s no strain to work your way through his opus, even as the themes turn dark. As he touches on gun violence, the erosion of environmental security, the absurdity of life, the friction of banality, and the overcast certainty of death we’re all there swaying in the circle with him. In these end times the church walls have come crumbling down and whether we know it or not, we’re all part of the church of daily atrocity humming the hymns on a subconscious level. Morby’s just pressing play on the recorder to save it for posterity.
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