In a sentence:
Exploring church music and the nature of faith in the modern world, ‘Oh My God’ is yet another excellent album in Kevin Morby’s catalogue.
whether religious or secular, has always been an undercurrent in Kevin Morby’s solo output, and even
going back into his time in The Babies and Woods. On his fifth record, Oh My God, he now brings these themes to
forefront and explores them more explicitly than ever before, ruminating on our
relationship with faith in the modern world. “It’s not a born-again
thing,” Morby said in a press release ahead of the album. “It’s more that ‘Oh
My God’ is such a profound statement we all use multiple times a day and means
so many different things. It’s not about an actual God but a perceived one.”
Using church music as a platform for his meditations, Kevin Morby offers us his densest, but also in many ways his simplest, album yet. Full of beautifully arranged and masterfully observed songs that feel modern but yet timeless, using musical touchstones from The War On Drugs right back to Bob Dylan, Oh My God is an experience to let wash over you. From the opening strains of the title track, cheery on its surface with Morby exhorting himself to “carry a glad song wherever I go”, with obvious tinges of gospel, to the resolutely agnostic ‘No Halo’, the subject of faith is immediately apparent, tying together the disparate musical patchwork.
As Oh My God advances, Morby expands his palette further. The chintzy garage-rock of ‘OMG Rock n Roll’ contrasts with the folksy throwback of ‘I Want To Be Clean’; the solemn ‘Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild’, with its massed backing vocals and smooth saxophone decorations, can exist on the same record as a genuinely funny track like ‘Hail Mary’. The very sparse and economical use of instrumentation on Oh My God, just like his previous work, underlines just what a strong songwriter Kevin Morby has become.
He channels the sublime and the profane on the hypnotic ‘Piss River’, struck by the simple wonders of life itself (“What a dream to have ever felt the air so warm / What a dream to have even ever been born”). It’s a theme that appears again on the bombastic waltz ‘Congratulations’, Morby expressing gratitude at the very act of just making it through the day, exuding the same kind of beatific vibe as Josh Tillman’s I Love You, Honeybear. On the closing ‘O Behold’, he uses lyrical gambits from spiritual music that are so incredibly well-worn that their presence here should be almost comedic – such as “the devil will come up / try to tear us apart” – but Morby’s straight-faced and sincere delivery, showing that he understands how this kind of music works and isn’t just playing it for laughs, even if he is toying with it, completely floors you. It’s a trick he pulls again and again on Oh My God, and shows him to be a master of his craft.
Oh My God is yet
another extremely fine record in Kevin Morby’s catalogue, drawing elements of
all of his previous work together and still finding ways to break new
territory. While maybe it doesn’t quite hit the peaks of 2017’s glorious City Music, it’s a
wonderful, therapeutic exploration of the modern condition, for making sense of
a confusing and divided world we all sometimes find hard to navigate. (8/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to Oh My God by Kevin Morby here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: dead oceans, Ed Biggs, kevin morby, Oh My God
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