Through his songs, Kevin Morby has spent the last decade conjuring up breezy imagery of American landscapes. Los Angles and New York have previously been backdrops to Morby‘s delicate personal tales and with Sundowner, his sixth album, Morby returns to where it all began – Kansas.
The backdrop of Kansas sharply aligns with Morby‘s persona. The city jaunts he has embarked on haven’t overshadowed his modest Midwestern charm and this is reflected throughout Sundowner.
At first, the methodical and near-spoken word drawls Morby delivers seem tainted in boredom. With songs like Brother, Sister and Wander they come off like Morby is just writing songs for the sake of it.
With repeated listens, however, this isn’t the case at all. This languid, methodical persona is Morby almost portraying one of the characters in his songs. There’s no better example of this than his lost friends, Jamie and Desi, on album highlight Jamie – Morby‘s best song since Singing Saw‘s Drunk on a Star.
It’s a song revealing a raw emotional burden that went missing on his last two albums, Oh My God and City Music. An achingly gorgeous rough diamond, Jamie extracts a new found beauty from the pits of pain, making you choke back the tears every time.
Earlier on Sundowner, opening song, Valley, is a weathered ’70s country-tinged waltz that one could listen to whilst laying in a field looking up at the clear open skies.
While Morby fumbled with E-Street Band reverence on Oh My God, the eponymous track is Morby‘s Nebraska moment, dispensing an aroma that drifts throughout the rest of Sundowner.
Broken up in two parts, Campfire is loose look-up-at-the-stars-and-get-lost kind of ditty, escaping into your own world. With sparse arrangements and an authentic country feel, it’s a song that’s gone walk about, but for all the good reasons.
“There’s lovers in the bedroom next door/You can hear ’em through the bedroom walls,” sings Morby on A Night at the Little Los Angeles. It’s a slow-paced weighty number that highlights the album’s core with Morby once again reaching for characters (in this case Meg, James, Jean and Ray Ray), who humanise his songs which is when Morby is at his best.
Morby‘s stories are as mundane as the Midwestern open road he sings about on closing number, Provisions. Mundane and as beautiful as the wicked skylines he also reaches for during Don’t Estimate Midwest American Sun.
Bursting with an honesty that the listener can relate to, Sundowner releases you from the feeling that boring facets of life are nothing but a burden to your own existence. Morby tells us that this is life and it’s okay to embrace these moments for what they are. Enjoy the small things and no matter how mundane they seem, there’s a beauty to be found.
Sundowner might not change the world. But it may change yours.
Sundowner is out now via Dead Oceans.