One of the most wildly ambitious albums you'll hear all year, Kevin Morby's gargantuan new record Oh My God came out a few weeks back. Morby has long been one of my favourite artists since a friend tipped me off to Singing Saw three years ago. Morby had been plying his skills as a musician for many years previously, as a solo act, and prior to that as a member of Woods.
He's damned prolific, as so many of the best musicians are. If you've got the wind in your sails, why stay in dock. So this is a double, and though I'm generally resistant to that particular format, (see my review of the latest from Vampire Weekend a couple of weeks back), in Oh My God's case it certainly makes sense that it takes that shape, given the vast scope of the enterprise.
Because Morby seems here to be setting out to attempt to make some sense of the very question of being alive, particularly in terms of inhabiting the fallen world we are occupying right now. If this doesn't always make Oh My God very easy to listen to, any more than The Old Testament is an easy read, he certainly constructs a mightily impressive if troubled edifice.
The touchstone artist for Morby seems to generally be Dylan although interviews show that he has an equally strong affinity for Patti Smith. But Dylan to my ears always seems to be his spiritual mentor. Time and time again a turn of phrase, a chord change, the rambling time worn, funereal yet jubilant swing of the arrangements recall the original song and dance man. It's a joy to hear someone sufficiently talented to be able to pull this off as well as he does. If Morby is the best Dylan we have right now, (apart from the man himself of course), then perhaps we're not so badly off after all.
I've put off listening properly to Oh My God since it came out just as you resist reading Moby Dick or Anna Karenina simply because they're such mammoth exercises and you're not sure you'll be equal to them. But as anyone who picks up Melville or Tolstoy will tell you, once you embark on your journey the richness of the experience is sheer delight.
I've also delayed listening to it and now writing about it because the friend I mentioned earlier who introduced me to Morby in the first place has written a vast and hugely comprehensive review of it for Pop Matters which I commend to you strongly and which Morby himself 'hearted' on Twitter.
Rod said something which echoes my own take on Oh My God. That it was Morby's best record but probably not his favourite. That hits the nail squarely on the head. Oh My God strangely is not a record that seems to want you to love it so long as it gets your respect. And boy, does it deserve respect.
Frankly by the end of my listen through to Oh My God I wanted to go and have a good lie down but couldn't because I was at work.Hear it, make sure you hear it. It's a great record, But goodness knows after making it how Morby has the strength to take these songs out on the road and punch them out night after night because just as he's pictured on the sleeve seeming to have risen from his slumbers, there's an inescapable weariness about the whole thing despite how good it is. That he managed to endure that weariness and just release this is triumph enough.