Kevin Morby tells us about his Top 10 LPs of 2016
Kevin Morby released his third album, Singing Saw, back in April which was his best yet and is also one of the year’s best: soulful, thoughtful, and moving with wonderful, just-so arrangements. If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favor and listen to it (stream it below). He then followed it up with “Beautiful Strangers,” a touching response to the Orlando shooting victims that was as good as anything on the record.
He spent most of 2016 touring Singing Saw and his next two shows are the two ACLU/Planned Parenthood benefits in NYC that also features Beirut, Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen, Sharon Van Etten and more.
We’ve been asking artists to send us year-end lists for 2016, and Kevin gave us his Top 10 LPs, which includes ones by tourmates Jaye Bartell and Big Thief, Solange, Whitney and more. He offers up his thoughts on his picks, along with a lyric from each, and he’s as observant in this commentary as he is in his lyrics. He also works in a moving tribute to one of 2016’s biggest losses. Definitely check this one out. His list, below.
KEVIN MORBY’S TOP 10 LPS OF 2016
10) Whitney – Light Upon The Lake
“I left drinking on that city train, to spend some time on the road, then one morning I woke up in LA, caught my breath on the coast”
I had the pleasure of meeting these young men at a house show in Paris we played together right before our records came out, and then seeing them all around the world since. This is the type of band that only comes every once in a while. A seven piece live force made up of very hard working amazing musicians and multi instrumentalists touring their asses off in support of their successful debut. Strong songs and lyrics to boot, they ain’t going nowhere. No Woman is a timeless jam.
9) Alex Cameron – Jumping The Shark
“German Shepards that caged magpies, under corrugated isle, drops of blood in a green glass vile.”
Somewhere there’s a man sitting in a bar in the worst possible part of town. He just got a hand job and is offering to buy people drinks and his hair is slicked back. “I’m from Phoenix, kid” he says at first, but then is heard again; “I’m from Greece – I come a long way”, and then again, “I’m from Bordeaux baby – don’t you believe me? I’m here on business and it’s time to get paid” but the man is from nowhere, he is low on cash and his eyes, in a certain flicker of the barrooms light, look like they belong to a child’s nightmare vision of the devil. When the tab comes the bartender comes with it and says “you’ve had enough, time to split, and all these people say you’re paying – so cough it up and get out, I’ve had about enough of you”. “Sure thing, Jimmy, let me just grab my brief case, I must have left it in the car” and with this he disappears and the next morning the towns people speak of reports made that there was a tall scarecrow in a silver sequined suit trying to thumb a ride on the side of the highway. “It wasn’t a man” most of them say “but a ghost, a ghost from hell”. Wrong. It was Alex Cameron and he’s from Sydney, Australia.
8) Big Thief – Masterpiece
“I’ll be your record player baby if you know what I mean, i’ll be your real tough cookie with the whiskey breath, i’ll be a killer and a thriller and the cause of our death.”
I first saw Big Thief when they opened for me in Dallas and it blew my fucking mind. There’s this part in the set where guitarist/vocalist Adrienne takes a solo in every sense of the word. Like, she just soloed on her beautiful guitar while the rest of the band wasn’t playing anything and then they all fell into the next song together. I would try and describe her voice but the truth is I cant and you just need to see it to believe it, as if it were a kind of beautiful spirit. Onward and upward for them, truly blessed to have shared the stage with them for a handful of shows.
7) Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree
“Let us go now, my only companion
Set out for the distant skies
Soon the children will be rising, will be rising
This is not for our eyes”
I first listened to this album driving alone at sunset down I-5 going from Portland to Cottage Grove and it’s just so beautiful, and so heavy. It worked well with the sun falling into the PNW landscape. God bless Nick Cave, he is one of my biggest inspirations and seems to only get better the further he goes. Go see him live if you never have and let him change your life. Rest In Peace Arthur Cave.
6) Solange – A Seat At The Table
“I tried to keep myself busy, I ran around in circles, think I made myself dizzy. I slept it away, I sexed it away, I read it away, away”
This album is a great culmination of many things. For starters, it’s narrated by Master P, and like a few of my other favorite albums of the past 20 years (The Miseducation Of, Good Kid Maad City) when theres is a well executed narration it provides a thread from song to song, making the album one, a complete circle. It comes off almost like witnessing a play, the music, in the context of hearing someone speak before and after each song, becomes 3D. It requires your time and attention but the payoff is wonderful. Solange comes across as very human on this album and her subject matter touches both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. Take those lyrics above, they are so innocent but so powerful when she sings them. And for the record, if this was a list for favorite album covers of 2016, this would be number one. Perfect.
5) Damien Jurado – Visions Of Us On The Land
“and when I was alive, you were alive, shouting like some planet you call home”
It finally happened. I finally stumbled upon Damien Jurados catalog and have become obsessed, especially with the trio of records done with Richard Swift in which this new one is the third. I can’t recommend listening to all three in a row while on a drive with no real destination in mind enough. For real, go try it! Timeless songwriting and incredible, one-of-a-kind production — and that voice, what a voice. These three records truly give you an experience you cant find anywhere else.
4) Nap Eyes – Thought Rock Fish Scale
“…then again what else is there? Another life some other way.”
There’s this lyric on the first song of this album that comes off so incredibly nonchalant I’m not even sure if lead singer and lyricist Nigel Chapman even knows how profoundly genius it is. The lyric is the one above but i’ll write it again; “…then again what else is there? Another life some other way.” Which seems to propose life’s biggest question, and immediately follow it up with the most charming and solid answer. This was my mantra this year, and I repeated it to myself over and over again, and probably will continue to do so. Nap Eyes are truly unique, and Nigel is a thinking man, and this album does what one hopes all and any art can do, to make the observer think about the world in a way which they have not done before, which is to say, see it through another’s eyes.
3) Jaye Bartell – Light Enough
“Tonight a blue balloon flew by me on the empty sidewalk, pushed by the wind past the lamp posts and the trash cans. I turned around to watch it go, and it was gone. Am I light enough to lift? Oh am I light enough?”
Jaye opened 24 shows for me this year. It was truly a pleasure watching him play every night. He is tall and handsome and is from Massachusetts. He has natural charm up there on the stage by himself. Every night a different friend would admit they couldn’t take their eyes off of him, they were pulled into his vortex but couldn’t exactly explain why. But its simple; Jaye is an amazing person and songwriter and sometimes when he would be singing tears would well up in the bottom of my eyelids as I watched his bold silhouette up there beneath the stage lights.
2) Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
“Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother, if she ever finds another he better love her, man I swear my life is perfect, I could merch it, if I die I’ll probably cry at my own service”
This record is already nostalgic for me and is completely tied to the full US Tour I did in July. Blasting Chance every morning while sweating across North America. This is a record that displays positivity as a weapon, an ultimate pick-me-up album. In a world of darkness Chance can see a light and through this album he shows us all how to see it too. Thank you Chance for your unique and positive outlook on life, you are young and beautiful and will change the world.
1) Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
“I am ready to die”
“I intend to live forever”
I haven’t even listened to this record yet. Not a second of it, but it is my favorite record of 2016. Thank you Leonard Cohen for your humor, wit, poetry and endless inspiration. You’ve been a knight standing guard at the gates of my psyche for many years. You taught me to be brave in my delivery and to believe in words. Words come first, and the singing can come second and that is ok. You taught me that success does not always happen overnight. You also taught me that success merely means survival. You were the walking, talking embodiment of charisma, taste and class. You were the kindest and gentlest of all the titans, and now you’re an angel who is in all the air we breath. Thank you for everything, rest in peace.
Kevin Morby – 2017 Tour Dates
Jan 18 Music Hall of Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY
Jan 19 Rough Trade Brooklyn, NY
May 31 Parc Del Forum Barcelone (Espagne), Spain
Jun 03 Victoria Park London, United Kingdom