The available prose concerning Kevin Morby is as delicately and thoughtfully written as his music. He is conveyed as a soft vision, who treads with heavy feet, remarking on the world’s consistent dual nature. Pain and beauty are no strangers to his lyric and musical compositions; though his 2016 album Singing Saw reveals a more refined communication style. His latest work has been compared to Bob Dylan, and fittingly, the album is honest and pure in instrumentation.
Kevin Morby gives us songs to weep to; a dignified, earnest sort of weeping. Be not ashamed of the salty, Morby induced downpour glistening from your cheeks! These are not the lowly tears wiped hastily away when crushes ignore our passionate texts; no, these are tear royalty, flying first class.
Though his latest anthology of sorrow is, well, brimming with sorrow, it is equally laden with elegance and grace. I picture Morby wondering the winding streets of his Los Angeles neighborhood, whose streetlights beam brightly on a glorified hill, while lyrics and compositions permeate his mind like fog rolling in from the ocean. Perhaps this is his mountain from “I Have Been to the Mountain” or the one he descends in title track, “Singing Saw”. He does, after all, reside in Mount Washington.
Morby’s move to LA appears a serendipitous prequel to Singing Saw, for the prior owner of his current home inexplicably abandoned an upright piano complete with sheet music and introductory lesson books. Morby took to piano like the bona fide musician he is, laying foundation for the third edition of his solo project. The album’s prominent symbol, the singing saw, figuratively cuts through the music, making appearances in multiple tracks. It is most notable in “Singing Saw”, but subtly resurfaces in “Destroyer” as a vessel he carries while wandering the street in silence. He employs recurring imagery to create a cohesive story riddled with emotion and dense themes. “Destroyer” emerges near the end of the collection, as if to say, nothing here is permanent; even the seemingly dependable notions in life, like family and love, fade and disappear.
As I’ve interpreted it, the album is not meant to be explicitly sad, but rather serves as an emblem of realism. The songs of Singing Saw are the observations of a complicated soul, worn heavily and conveyed authentically. The orchestral style composition, featuring charming yet simple piano, amplifies the apparent emotion in Morby’s heartfelt vocals. These are not lighthearted lyrics, and, if his songs are a genuine reflection of who he is, Morby is not a lighthearted individual.
Upon my second listen of Singing Saw, I began to see images. By the third, I felt an inkling of understanding. Following the fourth, appreciation and a longing to see Kevin Morby perform took hold like roots in “Black Flowers”. On June 11, this longing will materialize when Morby visits Larimer Lounge, a fitting venue for what I predict will be an intimate show. If you are as fascinated as I am, join me at the show this Saturday to experience Singing Saw and celebrate the enigma that is Kevin Morby.
Written by: Haley Midzor