Written By: Andrew Sedo
2016’s We Move introduced Irish singer James Vincent McMorrow as a unique entry into the UK’s serious neo-soul revival. Whereas compatriots James Blake, and Sampha focused on intensely skewed introspection, and stunningly simplistic vocal dexterity respectively, McMorrow seemed to be moving in a more danceable direction. Singles like “Get Low” and “Rising Water” portended a sad yet, springy twist on a burgeoning interpretation of the definition of soul. However, on this year’s True Care, we see McMorrow either abandoning his more poppy direction in favor of a traditionally solemn approach, or taking the middle ground between his heavily produced, and sparsely accompanied counterparts.
The result is an interesting amalgam of styles where back-beats are hit or miss, and songwriting mostly doesn’t hold to a truly stirring standard. On the opening “December 2914” McMorrow creates a one-dimensional vision of a futuristic world. He begins “December 2914 / The spaceships here are deafening / atmosphere is paper thin / phone reception’s harrowing” and leaves us wondering exactly what point he’s trying to make about this imagined environs. The following track “True Care” shows off McMorrow’s greatest strength, his truly transcendent voice, and talent for making certain untouchable themes eminently relatable. The choral “And on my brightest days / still duller than your darkest days” shows a thankful spirit for those who help us through the daily struggle, and the feeling that we somehow don’t deserve their endless aid. He perfectly grasps the further depressing contradiction that accompanies feelings of burdening the ones we love and knowing we’d be lost without them.
Another standout is the almost Daft-Punkish “Thank You” which has McMorrow floating over 80’s synths and spinning yet another beautifully tuned performance. Likewise, the lovely “Glad It’s Raining”, while bluntly titled, is a great example of McMorrow’s undeniable vocal talents. It may be unfair to compare him to Blake and Sampha, but it’s impossible to not feel like McMorrow has missed an opportunity to forge his own direction in a crowded lyceum.
It would be impossible to challenge McMorrow’s credentials as a musician, listening to him is a pleasure. However, the strongest efforts from his debut are either slowed down showcases or dark masterworks in dance track clothing. As listeners we are victims of our own expectations and biases, and my excitement at his perceived direction was certainly one of mine. True Care is not a bad record, and as it is generally pleasant, but it lacks the depth and sincerity of other recent entries in the genre. McMorrow’s We Move, while popularly twinged, did its titular job to great effect and without losing it’s dark heart. True Care shows that artistry isn’t always about a scientific move in a specific direction, but finding an untrodden path through the genius of your peers.