The news of an artist suddenly dropping their new album still generates a thrill of anticipation, even if it doesn’t make their accountants happy.
The big guns do it – Beyoncé, Kendrick, Kanye, Radiohead, et al – but they can afford to appease the bean counters with income derived from digital streams/downloads.
An artist such as James Vincent McMorrow is commercially successful only on a certain level, so announcing a new album – arriving less than 10 months after his third, the tactically planned We Move – isn't the most financially astute of decisions. There is, however, method in his unorthodox approach.
As McMorrow has outlined in some personal detail on his website, he has become increasingly weary (and wary) of traditional delivery of music, as well as the loaded expectations that lie, sometimes threateningly, in the shadows.
Choosing to ignore the customary business model, however, has liberated him enough to create music that, he admits, is “as fresh to me as it is to you”.
True to his words, McMorrow presents 15 new tunes that further consolidate his position as a songwriter of meaningful, depth-charged soul music. If the opening track, December 2914, playfully meanders from Prince funk to Weather Report fusion, then so much of the remainder pivots around a redemptive form of experimentation that gathers together sublime avant-soul (Bend your Knees), unusually hesitant piano ballad (National), disparate instrumentals (Interlude 1, Interlude 2, Outro), and just simply gorgeous tunes (Bears, Glad It's Raining).
McMorrow has admitted that on previous albums (particularly his second, Post Tropical) he fixated, perhaps worryingly so, on getting every track as sonically pristine as possible – the end result being technically, strikingly perfect music that was, effectively, on display in a perma-sealed cabinet.
The songs here, on the other hand, are sometimes flawed, occasionally faltering, but always within the grasp of the listener. By being “reactive to the world” he lives in, McMorrow has learned a crucial tortoise/hare lesson: instinct beats intellect every time.