A beautifully-scripted exercise in melancholy
Susie Merry
13:39 13th October 2020

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A beautifully scripted account of solitude, Kevin Morby’s 6th studio LP Sundowner is a ten-track exercise in melancholy. Characteristically self-aware, it's decorated with articulate visions and graphic omens.

Years before the collective isolation with which we’ve become accustomed, Kevin Morby beat us to it. In 2017, he found himself alone in his home state of Kansas - the first time in his career since flitting between the road and L.A.. Joined only by partner Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) that summer, the pair witnessed a shared melancholy creep upon them as dusk drew in. Using the time to reflect on all that had happened in the between-period, Morby equipped himself with a makeshift studio and wrote Sundowner; a term for those afflicted by the days’ end.

The earnest opening strums of ‘Valley’ capture the same closeness you’d imagine from the Four Track Tascam 424 he demoed upon, inside his newly cacti-fied, wall-to-wall pine-wood home (nostalgically named “Little Los Angeles”). The admonition of disconnect is immediate, as Morby croons in his signature sing-speak: “all the stars are broken, for either me, or you, or us.”

Title-track ‘Sundowner’ stuns in its simplicity. With warmly-plucked strings and feathery reeds ready to embrace us, the song moves with the ease in which we can wake up one day unsettled, removed from our natural habitat, unaware of how we got here. A journey of two parts, previous single ‘Campfire’ moves from Morby’s moody, rhetorical “where have all my friends gone?” into a quietly romantic, lilting waltz, hinting at Crutchfield’s assumed arrival. It stands up next to his previous singles on the subject of reunion; albeit a different energy from Singing Saw’s jubilant ‘Dorothy’, or the restorative power of 2016’s ‘Beautiful Strangers’.

Momentarily lifted by the luscious ‘Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun’ (reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bookends Theme’) vocals plead in unison with the guitar - “don’t go please, my whole life […] I have been waiting”. Then there's ‘Jamie’, a beautiful yet chillingly direct meditation on grief. Morby’s repetitive assurances on the sequence of events, complete with depictions of his friends’ mystical reincarnations (“Desi was a friend of mine, she’s a mermaid now”) speaks of our universal grappling for a narrative and stability post-loss.

In the same intimate fashion as the record began, twanging strings cling to the fretboard in closing track ‘Provisions’. Offering up the unnervingly clairvoyant advice - “grab provisions, there’s nothing for a hundred miles” - for us to hunker down with, by the record’s end we have voted Morby in as spokesperson for all us self-appointed sundowners.

Sundowner arrives 16 October via Dead Oceans. 

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Photo: Press