Thursday, 6 October 2011

Lovesong: James Vincent McMorrow and Bon Iver

There seems to be a voguish propensity amongst songwriters to retreat to a log cabin in the woods, or a house halfway up a mountain (guilty) to write and record their masterwork in monastic isolation. Dubliner James Vincent McMorrow (left) found a small beach house on the Irish coast to produce 'Early in the Morning'.
There's a lightness in his voice that brings Bon Iver to mind, the vocals are often multi tracked, reinforcing that feel of 'For Emma Forever Ago', although an occasional flighty vocal inflection suggests Jeff Buckley and a pop sensibility that is shared by the likes of Tom Baxter and the quieter moments of Duncan Sheik. There are hooks aplenty but they don't slap you around the face; they sneak up behind you and whisper in your ear; it's an album for having on rotation; excellent as concentrated listening but great also as background to soundtrack your early mornings. There are highs and lows which mean that 'Early in the Morning' doesn't have the same hypnotic ambience of Mr Iver's bleak yet redemptive masterpiece; McMorrow's lyrics here are more specific, less obscure.
'Early in the Morning' is full of dawning optimism, whereas 'For Emma' seems more sanguine, regretful even.  Listening to 'If I had a Boat', McMorrow seems keen to venture out whilst Iver is happy cosseted in his hut in the northwoods of Wisconsin; he's not after reinvention or revelation; for him it's comfort and protection that are important. As he sings in 'Re:Stacks', "This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization. It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away. Your love will be safe with me"
While both albums share core elements of wistful tenderness and regret at love lost, McMorrow looks hopefully out of his beach hut through clean windows; Bon Iver's windows are muddy and misted; he seems quite happy to leave them that way...


  1. Not that this has anything to do with Bon Iver...but did you ever hear of Elliot Smith? My husband loves his music and plays him quite a lot..

  2. Nicole, I like Elliot Smith, although never quite loved him... I first saw him performing at the Oscars when he was nominated for songs he did for 'Good Will Hunting' and loved his dishevelment amongst all the hokey glamour. I brought Figure 8 'Somebody that I used to Know'), Either Or (love 'Angeles') and XO (Waltz 2) and see that there's an excellent introduction that has a remastered version of the classic 'Needle in the Hay'.

  3. I do like this - now need to get the cd