Written by Kai Feltham
Surprising us all with only a week’s worth of individually led promotion preceding its release, Irish singer songwriter James Vincent McMorrow has returned with True Care, an album so magnificent from front to back that it can only be described as simply career defining.
Incorporating the varying styles of his three previous full-length records, along with the more electronically led influences of Bon Iver et al, True Care is McMorrow’s most diverse record yet. With equal measures of soft, internalised monologues and expansive, celebratory tunes, the album incorporates every emotion from solitude to joy and every little iota in between. To be frank, True Care is up there with the greatest albums of the year so far.
Whilst the vast majority of albums tend to come alongside corporate influenced mass marketing and advertisement, True Care was an entirely individual, one-man project.
Released on May 26th, a mere seven days after its first reveal on his personal Twitter account, True Care is the Irishman’s fourth studio album, coming along only one year after his last, We Move. As well as the unique release method, the record in inimitable in its production style. Having been written and recorded over the space of only five months, with minimal editing and mastering, McMorrow’s record is both raw and intensely layered in equal measure.
In the Irishman’s own words, the lack of an extended mastering period left the record full of “one takes” with very little forced “sanding off the edges”. All of this comes together to present what is not only a record of artistic quality, but one of genuine honesty and integrity. True Care is documentary-like in its lyrical nature, but also rings true all the way back to its original inception and recording.
There is a clear sense on True Care of the diverse outside influences on McMorrow’s work. Opening track, December 2914 employs the use of synthesisers, electronic soundscapes and cut and sampled backing vocals. The electronic influences do not end here, evident on the likes of Bears, title track True Care and most prominently on the short, sweeping breeze of Pink Salt Lake. Whilst such elements have crept into McMorrow’s recent albums, We Move and Post Tropical, they have reached their peak levels on True Care.
Considering McMorrow started his musical escapades as an exclusively acoustic guitar and strings led singer songwriter, it is almost surprising that such elements have weaved their way into his audible tapestries. Yet, somehow they work exceptionally well. The plodding synths of True Care accompany his high pitched vocal, the stop-start soundscapes of Constellations act as a soft bassline and the vocal-free musical interludes break the album up with the use of muted brass and accompanying sound effects. The greatest compliment that such compositions can be given is their incredible similarity at points to the work of Justin Vernon and Bon Iver.
For the title track and Don’t Wait Forever in particular would not at all be out of place on the breath-taking record 22, A Million. McMorrow’s work is still entirely unique however, but the path he is treading is one that is familiar, and has brought such high levels of critical acclaim for fellow artists.
Peering through the audible maze of electronic influences and unique musical combinations still reveals the one true timeless quality that James Vincent McMorrow possesses; his voice. High pitched falsettos cut through almost every song, delivering the emotional clout of the record better than almost any of his artistic contemporaries. This is most evident on National, all of the electronic additions falling to one side and leaving McMorrow alone with his piano.
The song is one of ultimate power and control, yet McMorrow’s voice teeters on the crevice of breaking as he tells of his “erratic emotion / Endless devotion / Visible ageing / Chronic impatience.” Such boundless sensation is also delivered on Holding On, arguably the standout track of the record. The song builds gradually, brass licks and percussion accompanying McMorrow’s bold vocal which breaks into an almighty crescendo at the epicentre of the track. The musical accompaniment appears to drift into the background as his voice grabs the shining spotlight, exclaiming “I think too much / Or not enough / Can’t get the balance right.”
True Care as an entirety is as vulnerable and open as I can remember any artist being in their musical output, and makes the record as a whole such a compelling listen. Yet none of this exceedingly powerful emotion would reach anywhere near its almighty peak without McMorrow’s use of his voice as an instrument of passion and fragility, as well as one of sheer musical brilliance.
True Care is a candid, brutally honest and revealing insight into McMorrow’s life itself. The record is effectively autobiographical in its nature, raising within its musical confines the relentless self-questioning and frustration of human existence. True Care is vulnerable throughout, but it is this quality which makes it so relatable. In James Vincent McMorrow’s words himself, “this album is life… sometimes life is magical. But other times it’s scary and fucked.” The album as a result is simultaneously exposed and internalised, confused and clear, discreet and bold.
James Vincent McMorrow is on a brief tour this summer, including headlining Barn on the Farm Festival Gloucestershire. Check out the dates, as well as reading a revealing statement from McMorrow himself on the inception and creation of True Care here.
Watch the lyric video for title track True Care here, it is brilliant, beautiful and fragile: