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Not long ago it would’ve been near impossible to connect Irish folk crooner James Vincent McMorrow with Canadian rap megastar Drake but here we are in 2016 and it’s suddenly simple. For his third record We Move McMorrow has done the biggest sound redesign of his career presenting something that revolves around soul and R&B. It’s been produced largely by Nineteen85, the man behind Drake’s Hotline Bling, and while there are other producers on board here, he helped McMorrow decide on the direction of the record.
As the title suggest, We Move is McMorrow’s most danceable affair. That’s not to say it’s a club record by any means. It’s not. It’s just full of swampy, laid-back grooves that possess more rhythm than anything he’s ever done. Even at the slow tempo that I Lie Awake Every Night move along at, it’s got a certain malleability to it that makes it feel designed for movement.
With an added beat behind him, he uses his usual toolkit of guitars and falsetto delivering beauty with more melody than ever before. Get Low, which is not a cover of Lil Jon by the way, is McMorrow in his element, wrapping that silky vocal around rich, suave guitar grooves. First single and album opener Rising Water also utilises his usual toolkit while adding a pulsating beat and a chorus that may be his most triumphant yet.
The talk surrounding this record in terms of its producers and sonic direction may make it seem like he’s alienating initial fans but that’s not the case at all. This is a natural progression more than a demolition of his prior sound. There may be more beats here but the ethereal beauty of Cavalier is back here on songs like the gentle Killer Whales while Lost Angels feels right down the alley of his breakout Higher Love.
That said, there are songs that would’ve been very hard to believe he was capable of just three years ago. Evil is the album’s spectacular centrepiece – an electronic-tinged track that perfectly pulls together all his newfound elements. It’s got a big, layered chorus and a verse with more delectable melody than a radio-ready pop song. At the end it explodes with a glorious climax. He once would’ve achieved this with brass and organic percussion but here he conjures it with swirling synths and chaotic vocal layering. It may just be his most successful output to date.
Too often, a sound change lessons the emotional impact for a singer/songwriter like McMorrow but that’s not at all the case here. I Lie Awake Every Night deals with an eating disorder he suffered as a child and depicts lying in a hospital bed. “Ever since there’s been weeds growing in my mind,” he sings surrounded by haunting instrumentation that
We Move is McMorrow’s most different album and it’s likely to be divisive amongst some fans of his original work but that’s unavoidable when you’re switching up your sound. It’s his most daring piece of work by far and by tinkering with his formula a little he’s delivered a record that sounds re-energised and exciting. It’s an excellent record by an artist who clearly has more to give than many would’ve expected.