After having spent a substantial stretch of time with this dazzlingly effervescent sophomore album by James Vincent McMorrow, I’ve arrived a considerably pragmatic assertion: anyone who can sit through this record without experiencing an overwhelming, intruding sober kind of sadness, without feeling so much as a trail of incendiary goosebumps on the back of their arm, surely has no soul.
Post Tropicalis leaps and bounds away from its predecessor Early in the Morning, the experimental singer-songwriter taking unimaginable risks, delving wholly into estranged, previously uncharted regions of creative composition. McMorrow was quickly deemed a folk artist when his debut record surfaced gallantly upon the indie rock scene, in part due to music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas selecting one of his songs for an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
This follow-up album, though, forces his audience to abandon previous conceptions of the artist, largely expanding the breadth and timeliness of his work by incorporating a substantive electronic component, an element of aural synthesis. “I have no interest in making music that’s built for an antique shop,” McMorrow recently stated in an interview with The Guardian “I love that it’s 2013, 2014 – I love that I can do these things with technology. It bothers me when musicians listen to music from the 60s and try and recreate it. Those people weren’t trying to recreate music from the 20s. Why do it?” In tradition with the isolated creative processes that conjured up Early in the Morning, recorded in a small studio near the eastern Irish coastline, McMorrow once more summons the detached inspiration of loneliness. This time around, however, he finds himself on the other side of the Atlantic, a remote studio in Texas.
This album is by no means an electronic record, it’s a contemporary feat of musical experimentalism, proliferated by the extended arm of artificial sound. Post Tropical reverently echoes Bon Iver‘s 2012 self-titled album and 2013’s award-winning Overgrown, an artist exposing the endless possibilities electronic music. The electronic elements often serve to mimic or allude to the impression of an analog expression, like the heavy, tailor-made synth melody on “Gold.” A similarly ethereal composition can be found on the first moments of “The Lakes,” where a glimmering convulsion of plucked strings are assembled to interpret the sounds of a waterfall. These brilliantly arranged sonic textures provide a gorgeous juxtaposition against all the arid, washed-out synths, especially in “All Points,” where a dominant clarinet part gains more and more agency until it’s the sole component of the track.
Aside from the bountifully subversive artistic liberties taken by McMorrow on Post Tropical, it remains to be the despairing sense of emotional conviction that continually draws me to this album. Lyrical self-reflections like those found on the R&B-inflected “Glacier,” deliberate upon the mental unrest found in this singer-songwriter’s troubled self-conscious, even after giving up drinking two years ago.
“Few became, few became as glory as along against the forest state and starting living in the new/ Harrow since, harrow since the farthest reach underneath inside a cheat/ Something is alive, somewhere underneath/ Caught between the real and the fake/ I don’t want to fit, there and has been found/ Silence is so cold, and there’s no sense at all/ And I was someone else, I was something good/ Barely in the old/ There among the cold”
There’s a beautiful longing in the indelible whimper of McMorrow’s frigid falsetto, one that never fully convinces itself of absolution or spiritual catharsis. The hollow remnants of a sullied, psychosomatic kind of old soul grace the shadowy crevices of Post Tropical. Watch the alluringly dark images visualized for this album below.