Surprise album ‘drops’ are a bit old hat in 2017. They’re also risky and presumptuous. It’s one thing for Beyoncé to spring a new LP upon the world. But what if you’re James Vincent McMorrow a cult figure who, while quite popular in Ireland, has yet to make meaningful waves internationally? Is there a danger his fourth long player, unleashed with little warning this week, will be met with a collective shoulder shrug?
McMorrow unveiled True Care on Thursday night with a live performance streamed on Facebook — a flourish of a piece with the project’s sci-fi sensibility. In the press release announcing the record, the Dublin-based singer explained he was “writing towards the date December 2914”. That sounds more like a plot point from David Lynch’s new Twin Peaks than a concept around which to build a soul-pop collection but, whatever the background logic, True Care is an act of sublime wonder.
Having started as a conventional folkie in the Damien Rice/ Ed Sheeran vein, McMorrow has moved confidently towards a more r’n’b steeped sound, marking him as a peer of artists such as Frank Ocean and even Drake (who sampled the Irishman on moochy-masterpiece album Views).
With True Care, McMorrow doubles down on the glitchy otherworldliness, his cautious falsetto shrouded in quicksilver beats and spooky tempo shifts. Opener ‘December 2914’ is a space opera fever dream lit with afro-future jazz flourishes; ‘Thank You’ blends disco and Bon Iver-type deconstructed folk — it’s bustling but forever on the brink of collapsing under a dead weight of ennui.
There are occasionally departures. Marrow-stripped ballad ‘National’ suggests Keaton Henson’s brooding understudy while a roiling ‘Constellations’ pairs the musician with a menacing drum shuffle.
With all due respect to his fanbase in Ireland it is fair to say the world was not exactly crying out for new material from McMorrow. Yet as unexpected treats go, True Care is a sublime, abstracted gift that keeps on giving.
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