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KEVIN MORBY

Kevin Morby

A Night At The Little Los Angeles (4-Track Version Of Sundowner)

    Friends! I am so pleased to announce A Night At The Little Los Angeles - the 4-track version of Sundowner. Recorded at home and in my back shed - aka The Little Los Angeles - in suburban Kansas during the summer and winter seasons of 2017 and 2018. This is quite simply the sound of me alone in a room with a four-track to catch my songs as they fell out of my mouth. When I later went into a proper studio to make Sundowner my goal was to capture the essence of these initial recordings, and here you will now have access to the very essence I was chasing. In many ways, this feels like a proper album to me, as it’s my initial attempt to capture the Kansas sunset and put it into sound, where as Sundower was an attempt of an attempt. I love and am proud of them both, of course, but am happy to - for the first time - share this vulnerable side of my songwriting process with the public. Many of my favorite recordings have been made inside of an artist’s home without regard of the outside world, but instead deep in their own world that they’re creating in real time. And with that - I’d like to invite you into my own little world here and now and ask you to please....step inside of....and spend A Night At The Little Los Angeles! - Kevin Morby

    ****** Sundowner is Morby’s “attempt to put the Middle American twilight -- its beauty profound, though not always immediate -- into sound.” Released in fall 2020 on Dead Oceans, Morby’s distinctively conversational and reflective writing style was received with open arms and was beloved by fans and critics alike. Pitchfork lauded it as “a vision of the Midwest that feels mythical and enormous.” Sundowner’s vision was further fleshed out in comprehensive features in Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Stereogum, The FADER, Vice, Aquarium Drunkard, and more. In addition to traditional music publications, Morby appeared on Adult Swim’s Fishcenter and Office Hours with Tim Heidecker. Morby also made his network television debut on CBS This Morning, where he performed the songs “Campfire” and “Sundowner” as part of a special joint performance with his partner and fellow songwriter Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Campfire (4-Track Version)
    2. Sundowner (4-Track Version)
    3. A Night At The Little Los Angeles (4-Track Version)
    4. Wander (4-Track Version)
    5. Velvet Highway (4-Track Version)
    6. Valley (4-Track Version)
    7. Brother, Sister (4-Track Version)
    8. Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun (4-Track Version)
    9. Provisions (4-Track Version)
    10. U.S. Mail (4-Track Version)

    Kevin Morby

    Sundowner

      In the winter of 2017 I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City from Los Angeles. The move was sudden and unforeseen, just as I was tying a bow on the writing process for what would become my 2019 album, Oh My God. I bought a Four Track Tascam model 424 off of an old friend to help me get to the finish line, but much to my surprise and excitement, this new piece of equipment in my all-but-bare home didn’t help complete one album but rather inspire another: Sundowner. The new collection of songs came quickly and effortlessly as I did my best not to resist or refine the songs, but instead let them take shape all on their own.

      As the songs kept coming I cleared out the crowded shed that was sitting dormant in my backyard and built a makeshift studio before adding drums, lead guitar and piano to complete the demos. Each day I would teach myself basic recording techniques, watching the channels illuminate and pulse as if the machine were breathing, and then emerge in the evenings as the sun was getting low: - around 5:30 in the winter, when the Kansan sunsets look icy and distant, like a pink ember inside of a display case, and 9 o’clock in the summer, when the sunsets are warm and abstract.

      Landing back home felt jarring juxtaposed with a life full of chaos and adventure with my band on the road. But at the very least, I was happy to have - for the first time in my adulthood - a place to close the door, with no temptations other than to work on music and reflect on what I had built since I left. It was a new form of isolation, one I had never explored or expected to experience. Not ready to let go of the hand of the California desert, I spent the winter decorating the best I knew how; with mementos from my previous home, cactus and aloe vera and covering the walls in pinewood - immediately earning my house it’s nickname, The Little Los Angeles.

      In January 2019 I contacted my friend and producer Brad Cook to help recreate what I had made in my shed. We chose to work in Texas; we wanted to make sure the record was done far away from any coastline, and in the heart of America. Brad played bass and some keys on the album, but beyond that he encouraged and inspired me to play almost everything else. All lead guitar, proper drums (save the drums on “A Night At The Little Los Angeles”), mellotron and what I believe to be the albums secret weapon - a WWII era collapsible and slightly out-of-tune pump organ - were performed by me. We did, however, bring in James Krivchenia towards the end of the session to fill out the percussion. It was an honor to work with him as he built maracas from pecans and played on the floor of the live room, adding flourish wherever he saw fit.

      On the last evening of the session, after everything had wrapped, we all climbed on top of an empty water tower on the property, giving us a view in all directions. To the North you could see an endless Texas, with long wisps of cirrus clouds above the desert floor, and to the South there was Mexico, the recent detention camps only a mile beyond, with large cumulus clouds hovering over, bringing us to an ominous pause. To the West, towards the setting sun, the two families of clouds merged, holding the last light of the day in purple and orange. Below, a freight train cut the landscape in half as it whistled in the distance.

      Almost as soon as the session wrapped, I was off and away on press trips and then proper tours for Oh My God, which came out in April that same year. Sundowner sat inside of a hard drive back at Sonic Ranch and did not see the light of day, until I found myself, as did the rest of the world, stuck inside their home and in quarantine in March 2020. My second year of touring for Oh My God was cancelled. Brad, Jerry and I worked from our respective homes, sending notes back and forth as we worked alone but together to mix the album, and suddenly, just like that, Sundowner was finished.

      Songs, like sunsets, are fleeting, and it’s only due to a willingness and desire to catch them that you ever, if even only for a moment, grab a hold of one. When writing Sundowner, I was lucky to have had the Tascam 424 there to help capture both. Sundowner is my attempt to put the Middle American twilight -- it’s beauty profound, though not always immediate -- into sound. It is a depiction of isolation. Of the past. Of an uncertain future. Of provisions. Of an omen. Of a dead deer. Of an icon. Of a Los Angeles themed hotel in rural Kansas. Of billowing campfires, a mermaid and a highway lined in rabbit fur. It is a depiction of the nervous feeling that comes with the sky’s proud announcement that another day will be soon coming to a close as the pink light recedes and the street lamps and house lights suddenly click on. -- Kevin Morby, Kansas, 2020.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: It's a blessing in a way, that all of the artists we know and love have had a chance to get through some unfinished work sitting around on their hard drives (obviously the circumstances surrounding it are less than ideal..). Here we have a fully fledged gorgous new album from Morby that just wouldn't have been given the attention it deserved had his tour for the last album gone ahead. Thank goodness it got finished, 'Sundowner' is a triumph.

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A: 
      1. Valley
      2. Brother, Sister
      3. Sundowner
      4. Campfire
      5. Wander
      SIDE B:
      6. Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun
      7.A Night At The Little Los Angeles
      8. Jamie
      9. Velvet Highway
      10. Provisions

      This is Kevin’s opus - a 2LP concept album on spirituality and religion. Throughout his four solo albums and myriad records of various collaboration, Kevin Morby has recognized in his work the ubiquity of an apparent religious theme. Though not identifying as “religious” in the slightest, Morby—the globetrotting son of Kansas City who has made music while living on both coasts before recently returning to his Midwestern stomping grounds—recognizes in himself a somewhat spiritual being with a secular attitude towards the soulful. And so, in an effort to tackle that notion head-on and once-and-for-all, he sat down in his form of church—on planes and in beds—and wrote what would become his first true concept-album: the lavish, resplendent, career-best double LP Oh My God.

      “This one feels full circle, my most realized record yet,” he says. “It’s a cohesive piece; all the songs fit under the umbrella of this weird religious theme. I was able to write and record the album I wanted to make. It’s one of those marks of a life: this is why I slept on floors for seven years. I’ve now gotten the keys to my own little kingdom, and I’m devoting so much of my life to music that I just want to keep it interesting. At the end of the day, the only thing I don’t want is to be bored. If someone wants to get in my face about writing a non-religious religious record? Thank god. That’s all I gotta say.”


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: Although Matt and I agree that the front cover of this looks unbelievably like a topless Dom Kozubik, don't let that put you off. 'Oh My God' is a tenderly delivered and perfectly measured slice of indie songwriting. Morby's ear for a tune and perfectly balanced juxtaposition of tender, brittle balladry and uplifting soulful soothe make this one for every collection.

      TRACK LISTING

      SIDE A
      1. Oh My God
      2. No Halo
      3. Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild
      4. OMG Rock N Roll

      SIDE B
      5. Seven Devils
      6. Hail Mary
      7. Piss River
      8. Savannah

      SIDE C
      9. Storm (Beneath The Weather)
      10. Congratulations
      11. I Want To Be Clean

      SIDE D
      12. Sing A Glad Song
      13. Ballad Of Faye
      14. O Behold

      Kevin Morby

      Harlem River Dub (Peaking Lights Remix)

        I wanted to do something to honor the title track off of my debut album, Harlem River, turning five years old this year. Its been very good to me over the past half decade as well as a staple in my live show. I’ve asked Aaron [Coyes] from Peaking Lights to breath some new life into it and give it a remix and I’m very happy with the results. This December I will be performing an hour long version of the song featuring many special guests. I wrote the song to be about new explorations, and it continues to give me—year after year—just that.” —Kevin Morby.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Harlem River Dub (Peaking Lights Remix)
        2. Harlem River After Hours Dub (Peaking Lights Remix)
        3. Harlem River Extended (digital Bonus Track)

        Kevin Morby

        City Music

          City Music is the new album by Kevin Morby. Full of listless wanderlust, it’s a collection inspired by and devoted to the metropolitan experience across America and beyond by a songwriter cast from his own mold. As he puts it: “It is a mix-tape, a fever dream, a love letter dedicated to those cities that I cannot get rid of, to those cities that are all inside of me.”

          His fourth album, City Music works as a counterpart to Morby’s acclaimed 2016 release Singing Saw, an autobiographical set that reflected the solitude and landscape in which it was recorded. Saw was imagined as “an old bookshelf with a young Bob and Joni staring back at me, blank and timeless. They live here, in this left side of my brain, smoking cigarettes and playing acoustic guitars while lying on an unmade bed.”

          And now follows City Music, the yang to its yin, the heads to its tails. It is a collection crafted using the other side of its creator’s brain, the jumping off point perhaps best once again encapsulated by an image. “Here, Lou Reed and Patti Smith stare out at the listener,” explains Morby. “Stretched out on a living room floor they are somewhere in mid-70s Manhattan, also smoking cigarettes.” It finds Morby exploring similar themes of solitude, but this time framed by a window of an uptown apartment that looks down upon an international urban landscape “exposed like a giant bleeding wound.”

          TRACK LISTING

          1 Come To Me Now
          2 Crybaby
          3 1234
          4 Aboard My Train
          5 Dry Your Eyes
          6 Flannery
          7 City Music
          8 Tin Can
          9 Caught In My Eye
          10 Night Time
          11 Pearly Gates
          12 Downtown's Lights

          Kevin Morby

          Singing Saw

            Singing Saw is a record written simply and realized orchestrally. In it, Kevin Morby faces the reality that true beauty – deep and earned – demands a whole-world balance that includes our darker sides. It is a record of duality, one that marks another stage of growth for this young, gifted songwriter with a kind face and a complicated mind.

            In the Autumn of 2014, Kevin Morby moved to the small Los Angeles neighborhood of Mount Washington. The move would shape Singing Saw, Morby's first album for new label Dead Oceans. Previous tenants at Morby's new home happened to leave an upright piano behind, with a few mysterious pieces of sheet music and an introductory book of common chords stacked on top. Thankful to finally be in one place for an extended spell, Morby, a beginner at the piano, immediately sat at the new instrument and began composing the songs that would form Singing Saw.

            Alongside, he began taking long walks through the winding hills and side streets of the neighborhood each night, glimpsing views of both the skyline's sweeping lights and the dark, dried out underbrush of the LA flora. The duality of the city itself began to shape a set of lyrical ideas that he would refine with the sparse accompaniment of piano and acoustic guitar.

            What is a singing saw? It is an instrument that creates ethereal sounds, but it is also a tool: basic and practical while also being fearsome, even destructive. Morby watches the singing saw in its eponymous song; that instrument of eerie soft beauty cuts down the flowers in its path and chases after him, while his surroundings mock and dwarf him, Alice in Wonderland style. And in a singing saw, we can understand music as something more powerful than its inviting, delicate sound. No wonder Morby talks about a "songbook" in his head as something he needs to take up the hills so he can "get rid of it." Heavy themes are nothing new for Morby, whose previous records (2013's Harlem River and 2014's Still Life, both released on the Woodsist label) dealt with their own eerie visions and damning prophecies.

            Morby opens Singing Saw with "Cut Me Down", a song of tears, debts and a prescient vision of being reduced to nothing. "I Have Been to the Mountain", "Destroyer" and "Black Flowers" continue to explore beauty and freedom, seizing upon the rot that seeps into even the supposedly safest of realms; peace, family and romantic love. By the end of the record on "Water", Morby is literally begging to be put out once and for all, like a fire that might burn all the visions away.

            Travels beyond his mountain walks inform songs like "Dorothy", which recounts a trip to Portugal, witnessing a fishing ritual and luxuriating in the aura of a bar light-tinged reunion with old friends The touching innocence of "Ferris Wheel" stands alone in stark simplicity amidst the lush sonic textures of the album. Here, the album is balanced by Morby's signature sweetness and joie de vivre.

            The arrangements of Singing Saw trace back to Morby's experience playing in The Complete Last Waltz, a live recreation of The Band's legendary last performance. There, Morby developed a fast friendship with producer/bandleader Sam Cohen (Apollo Sunshine, Yellow Birds), which led Morby to forgo recording in Los Angeles and take the nascent songs of Singing Saw to Isokon Studios in Woodstock, New York. There, in a converted A-frame house, they set about creating a record that would bring a sonic balance, intricacy and depth to match these songs and all that inspired them.

            Sam Cohen added a multitude of instrumentation to the record (guitar, bass, drums and keyboard), and were joined by fellow Complete Last Waltz alum Marco Benevento on piano and keyboard, fleshing out Morby's original compositions and upholding the vision for a cohesive piano sound that serves as a touchstone for the entire album. Backup vocalists Hannah Cohen, Lauren Balthrop and Alecia Chakor contribute soaring harmonies; Nick Kinsey (Elvis Perkins) adds drums and percussion; Justin Sullivan, a longtime Morby collaborator and staple of his live band, contributes drums; Oliver Hill and Eliza Bag lift numerous songs with string accompaniments, and Alec Spiegelman on saxophone and flute and Cole Kamen-Green on trumpet bring dramatic swells. Finally, John Andrews (Quilt) adds the eerie lilt of the album's promise, providing saw on the "Cut Me Down" and "Singing Saw".

            In the end, Morby fulfills the promise many heard on his first two albums, bringing his most realized effort of songwriting and lyricism to fruition. The songs of Singing Saw reflect the clarity that comes from welcoming change and embracing duality, and the distillation of those elements into an entirely new vision. 

            TRACK LISTING

            Cut Me Down
            I Have Been To The Mountain
            Singing Saw
            Drunk And On A Star
            Dorothy
            Ferris Wheel
            Destroyer
            Black Flowers
            Water


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