James Vincent McMorrow – Early in the Morning, a Timeline.
00:00:02 – Bon Iver. The Irish Bon Iver, that’s what this sounds like. It actually sounds so much like Justin Vernon, I think I may have put on the wrong album. But it’s so good, so damn good, I’m not going to check.
00:01:27 – ‘If I Had a Boat’ hits the chorus, and it’s gorgeous. Upbeat but still gentle, it’s that all-encompassing warmth which only the best folk songs have. Amazing.
00:03:15 – After slowing things down, it comes back around. Those harmonies are gorgeous. The lyrics are enchanting too. A beautiful love song.
00:04:23 – We’re into track two now. It’s branched out a little from the Bon Iver comparisons of the opener. But not too much, it’s still gorgeous. In fact ‘Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft and Low’ is actually a step-up from the opener.
00:05:45 – Even when James Vincent McMorrow isn’t singing the whole thing sounds amazing. That banjo riff infuses the song with a tremendous old-time feel.
00:08:15 – Not content with being Justin Vernon, JVMcM wants to be Robin Pecknold too. He’s actually a far better singer and musician than that Fleet Foxes mainman, so perhaps they’ll draft him in as a replacement.
00:09:33 – ‘Sparrow and the Wolf’ just screams folk. The title, the music, the crystal clear choral vocal, everything. One of the best songs of the year.
00:10:18 – Feck this breakdown lark, I want the upbeat back, oh here it is. Glorious.
00:11:31 – Even the outro section is magnificent. Why oh why does this song have to end?
00:12:03 – ‘Breaking Hearts’ is a much slower tune. It’s a more formulaic track, with a Johnny Cash-style slow rhythm.
00:12:40 – When the chorus kicks in, it gets good. A nice little anti-love song, with tales of broken hearts and drinking the night away. We’ve all been there.
00:14:59 – This reminds me a little of Brett Dennen, albeit a better Brett Dennen. This would be the perfect song to close out an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (do you hear me RTE producers, snap up James for some Irish shows before the Americans get him).
00:17:14 – The darkest song so far, ‘We Don’t Eat’ is a sparse piano-driven tune.
00:18:57 – The lyrics are dark too, but it’s a welcoming dark. Like those scenes in horror films where the protagonist goes into the creepy-looking woods, and you shout at the screen telling her not to. It’s impossible to resist.
00:20:21 – The music has that quality too. There’s probably no escape. There’s even a fabulous crescendo. Hair standing on end moment.
00:22:12 – The most upbeat song so far. I’m almost tempted to dance to this one. You know the way Ellie Goulding is trying to make danceable folk, when in actual fact she’s merely the new Dido? Well, that’s not danceable folk. ‘This Old Dark Machine’ is. Irresistibly catchy.
00:24:28 – The lyrics are even a small bit smutty. “Hem of your dress” eh? Speaking of Hem, where did they go. Ah forget about them, this is so much better.
00:25:10 – That repeated ‘I Will Love You’ may well be the best refrain ever.
00:26:13 – Back to Justin Vernon territory. I hate continually comparing the two, but that’s who it sounds like. t even was recorded in an isolated house by the sea. ‘Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree’ is the song used in the Barnardos ad. See you thought it was Bon Iver too, didn’t you? You can download the track from Barnados here.
00:28:50 – It’s such a beautiful song, and another of the album’s many highlights.
00:30:19 – The vocals are little more slurred here, but that actually works well with the melody and rhythm.
00:31:13 – ‘Down the Burning Ropes’ has that train-line click-clack feel, evoking images like some of the scenes in There Will Be Blood.
00:32:11 – How the hell does he do that with his voice. Amazing in every way. Who needs extra instruments when you can sing like this. McMorrow is such a better singer than Ireland’s main singer-songwriter of the 00s (Damien Rice), it’s unbelievable. If he doesn’t become a breakout star with this album, everything is wrong with the music industry. Everything.
00:35:07 – ‘From the Woods!!’ comes complete with extra punctuation just to reinforce the point. It didn’t need them at all, the lyrics and vocals got the point across more than well enough.
00:37:33 – I’ve listened to this album many, many times at this stage, and still I forget about this. I just don’t expect it. Exclamation points are needed here. Definitely.
00:39:28 – ‘And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop’ is the best love song of the year. It’s not a straightforward love song, but what love is?
00:41:53 – When he sings it, you know he really feels it. James Vincent McMorrow, if you are reading this, will you do me a favour, and sing at my wedding? It’d be perfect.
00:44:40 – The album ends with the title track ‘Early in the Morning’. Good choice to bookend the record. The repeated title is flawless throughout
00:45:11 – The lyrics, oh the lyrics: “dressing in my father’s suit / cleaned his shoes”. Wow.
00:45:43 – Can’t believe it’s over. Irish album of the year? Definitely. Actually, you know what this is…
“The best album to come out of Ireland in a decade”. You can quote me on that.