Kevin Morby tells us about his favorite albums of 2019
Kevin Morby has been sending us his year-end list of favorite albums for a while now, and it’s become a holiday tradition at BrooklynVegan we really look forward to. As anyone who’s listened to his albums knows, Kevin’s got a way with words and is a passionate music fan, and it’s always fantastic getting to hear his thoughts on other people’s records. His 2019 list includes records from Purple Mountains, 75 Dollar Bill, Michael Kiwanuka, Mike Krol, Big Thief, collaborators Hand Habits, San Cohen and Cochemea, and…Lil Nas X. Read his commentary of his favorite albums of the year below. No matter the album, Kevin will make you a believer.
Having released the ambitious Oh My God back in April, Kevin’s spent much of the year touring it, both with his eight-piece OMG Band and as a duo with Cochemea. He’s got a few more dates to wrap up the year, playing Harrisonburg, PA tonight and Atlantic City on Saturday. Then in 2020, Kevin will tour Europe and then head back out across North America starting in March. All tour dates are listed, along with a stream of Oh My God and the “Oh My God” short film, below.
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KEVIN MORBY’S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2019
Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
I started training for a 5k earlier this year right around the death of David Berman, and soon my training became my personal time to mourn over a Silver Jews / Purple Mountain record in its entirety. The endorphin rush mixed with listening to music can be profound, and I began to notice things I wouldn’t have otherwise, and in only listening to All-Things-Berman as I ran for the first few months after he died, I started to pick up on a pattern David had in his writing. He seemed to be shoving his best lines into a hidden corner of the song where it may go unnoticed or come off as a “throw away line,” unless the listener was paying close attention. He’d take lyrics that any other songwriter would do their best to highlight, and hide them like as an Easter Egg within the music. Something only a true master of the craft could confidently do. I started noticing this here and there but it was on a run in San Francisco earlier this year through Golden Gate Park listening to “Nights That Won’t Happen” when he delivered his biggest blow. I had never noticed the one-liner “death is a black camel that kneels down so we can ride” though I had listened to the song dozens of times. Overtaken by emotion, I had to stop running as I felt the tears starting well up — for the sudden image of David Berman at the end of his 52 years being approached by a slow-moving black camel that had traveled across a lifetime of his poetry, kneeling down so that David could mount and then be carried away to someplace unreachable was too much to bear. Thank you for all you have given us, David.
RIP DCB AND THANK YOU, XO
Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road”
I’m gonna go ahead and consider this song its own album based on how many remixes there are. I legitimately love this song and hands down have listened to it more than any other song this year. And how could I not when it’s literally everywhere? Most times I heard it I had no choice. But I’m a huge fan and I find Lil Nas X’s story very inspiring as he’s seemed to single-handedly bridge the gap between country and hip hop in one swoop while crashing on his sisters’ couch and making music on his laptop. What a fucking legend.
Cochemea – All My Relations
I’ve had the great pleasure of playing alongside Cochemea in my Oh My God Band as well as doing duo tours with him for the past year. He is so incredibly gifted and kind – and this album captures just what a unique and rare talent he is. As far as I’m concerned, he’s created his own genre here by rolling Native Rooted Music, Jazz and Latin rhythms all into one. I can’t wait to see what Cochemea does next — and I truly believe everyone should have this album in their collection.
Hand Habits – Placeholder
This is a special record as I got to see the development at every stage. From Meg working on songs on tour while they were in my band, to sending me demos and rough mixes, to sending me the completed record it was really fun to watch this thing take shape. I’ve always felt this record has a magic similar to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. It’s beautiful and slow, but brings a strong energy. Love you Meg, and I love your album.
Big Thief – Two Hands
Earlier this year I was doing some recording with James Krivchenia, who drums in Big Thief, at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, TX. While we were there he received a test pressing of what was to be their first of two albums for 2019, UFOF. He played it for us that night and we all really enjoyed it, but when I really fell in love was when he played us some songs off what was to be their second album of the year, Two Hands. Maybe it’s because Two Hands was also recorded at Sonic Ranch and I was hearing it in its natural setting, but something about it immediately spoke to me. I could feel the same dusty Texas air we were breathing captured inside the songs. But more importantly I could hear a band — a true band in all senses of the word — speaking their secret language. Records like this are becoming very rare nowadays as we exist in the era of the solo project and it’s incredibly refreshing to hear four souls as locked into and devoted to one another as Big Thief. We also exist in an era where guitar bands are drifting further and further away from guitars, and while that can be fine I am glad that we all have a band that is leaning in, and carrying the torch for us all.
Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
I discovered Michael Kiwanuka through his song in the opening credits of Big Little Lies a few years ago, and have loved him ever since. He tends to build these very musical worlds on either side of his songs, which I love. It makes everything feel very grand and cinematic. I fell in love at first single with this album when I heard “You Aint The Problem” earlier this year. Incredible production by Danger Mouse and amazing performances all around especially by MK himself. He’s a real talent and I’ve had a whole lot of fun listening to this thing.
Sam Cohen – The Future’s Still Ringing In My Ears
Much like the Hand Habits record, I also had the pleasure of watching this album develop from its earliest stages — and then after it being released — taking it on the road as part of my OMG Tour. Sam and I shared a band and he would open the shows and it was such a pleasure to hear these powerful songs night after night. They’re political and witty, and Sam’s production is some of my favorite work ever. Sam’s a great drummer, a bass god, a beautiful singer, a great lyricist and one of the best guitar players of all time — and he shows all of that on this album. My favorite work of his to date.
75 Dollar Bill – I WAS REAL
I’ll never get tired of this album. It sets a vibe and keeps you there. Like some of my favorite Steve Gunn / Truscinski Duo or Bombino records, this album melts time and opens the mind. I can either be fully plugged into this thing or have it on in the background but no matter the setting it’s never not enjoyable.
Mike Krol – Power Chords
Mikes bio on Instagram reads: “too punk rock for the indie rockers, too indierock for the punk rockers.” And this record hits that nail right on the head, though it’s just not too much of either of those genres — it’s just perfect. Like Is This It? or Blood Visions I think this is Krols no filler masterpiece not to mention the album cover is fucking amazing.
Tim Presley – I Have To Feed Larry’s Hawk
Tim is a legacy artist and has released so many albums in so many different capacities that all exist in their own little worlds – but he’s really hit a new peak with this one. This is my favorite album of his since his 2009 masterpiece Growing Faith. Tim is an American treasure and one of the best and most influential songwriters and performers I know. Everyone go listen to this album as well as everything that’s come before it.
KEVIN MORBY – 2019/2020 TOUR DATES
DEC 20 FRI – The Forum Auditorium – Harrisburg, PA, United States
DEC 21 SAT – Music Box – Atlantic City, NJ, United States
JAN 25 SAT – Antigel Festival – Genève, Switzerland
JAN 26 SUN – KUZ Kulturzentrum Mainz – Mainz, Germany
JAN 27 MON – Kulturkirche Köln – Cologne, Germany
JAN 29 WED – Heimathafen Neukölln – Berlin, Germany
JAN 30 THU – UT Connewitz – Leipzig, Germany
JAN 31 FRI – Feierwerk – Munich, Germany
FEB 1 SAT – MEETFACTORY – Prague, Czech Republic
FEB 2 SUN – WUK – Wien, Austria
FEB 4 TUE – Le Grand Mix – Tourcoing, France
FEB 5 WED – Le Confort Moderne – Poitiers, France
FEB 6 THU – Le Chabada – Angers, France
FEB 7 FRI – CCM John Lennon – Limoges, France
FEB 8 SAT – The Time Machine – Joué-lès-tours, France
FEB 9 SUN – La Nef – Angoulême, France
FEB 11 TUE – Moon Of Pirates – Amiens, France
FEB 12 WED – La Laiterie – Strasbourg, France
FEB 13 THU – Les Trinitaires – Metz, France
FEB 14 FRI – Epicerie Moderne – Lyon, France
FEB 15 SAT – Festival Hors-Pistes – Annecy, France
FEB 26 WED – duo MUSIC EXCHANGE – Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to, Japan
MAR 1 SUN – Nine Lives Festival – Brisbane, Australia
MAR 4 WED – Adelaide Festival – Adelaide, Australia
MAR 5 THU – The Enmore Theatre – Sydney, Australia
MAR 7 SAT – A Festival Called Panama – Golconda, Australia
MAR 9 MON – Brunswick Music Festival – Brunswick West, Australia
MAR 21 SAT – Electric Park Ballroom – Waterloo, IA, United States
APR 9 THU – Texas Theatre – Dallas, TX, United States
APR 10 FRI – Mohawk Austin – Austin, TX, United States
APR 11 SAT – White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX, United States
APR 13 MON – Proud Larry’s – Oxford, MS, United States
APR 16 THU – Saturn – Birmingham, AL, United States
APR 17 FRI – Terminal West – Atlanta, GA, United States
APR 18 SAT – Motorco – Durham, NC, United States
APR 20 MON – Hi-Fi – Indianapolis, IN, United States
APR 21 TUE – High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI, United States
APR 22 WED – Turner Hall Ballroom – Milwaukee, WI, United States
APR 24 FRI – Fine Line – Minneapolis, MN, United States
APR 25 SAT – Record Bar – Kansas City, KS, United States
JUL 10 FRI – Pohoda Festival – Trenčín, Slovakia
AUG 26 WED – Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO, United States