When Bon Iver accepted the 2012 Grammy award for “Best New Artist”, it was an awkward victory for artists on the fringe of mainstream awareness. While refreshing, there was something vaguely surreal about seeing the scraggly introvert thrown into the same machine that celebrates Nicki Minaj and Will.i. am. Somehow, Bon Iver’s esoteric, emotionally cryptic neo-folk had trickled its way down into the belly of the beast – a pop awards show.

Signs show that Bon Iver’s Grammy win was not just an anomaly. Now it’s 2014 and James Blake is a nominee for the very same Grammy award, in recognition of his dubstep infused R&B. If the past two years have been any indication, pop music’s landscape is shifting as the public grows more receptive to artists who bring together the past and present in innovative ways.

This being the case, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Irish singer songwriter James Vincent McMorrow combines folk anthems and analog synthesizers on his new sophomore LP, “Post Tropical”.

In fact, on first impression “Post Tropical” seems so awfully reminiscent of both Bon Iver’s and James Blake’s self-titled LP’s, you want to dismiss McMorrow as an imitator. Everything from the lavish synthesizer of the album’s opening track to its pastel-colored cover art fits so nicely – almost too nicely – into the James Blake and Bon Iver school of grandiose subtlety.

A deeper listen to “Post Tropical” reveals the album for what it is: a collection of modern folk songs that glow like a nugget of the divine. The 10 tracks on “Post Tropical” float with an airy bounce that’s refreshing for the indie genre. Even as McMorrow expresses the pains of heartbreak and the wonder of first love, he delivers these emotions from a place that transcends human experience. Take the track “Red Dust”, where McMorrow articulates his loneliness over steel-pan synthesizers and 808 dance beats. McMorrow croons, “My vision of birth, now is my vessel and my curse.” Despair has never felt so playful.

Indeed, McMorrow brings out delight from unexpected places on “Post Tropical”. The track “Gold” blooms with synthesized  trumpet lines and robotic crash cymbals,

Courtesy of Paul Hudson Via Flickr.com

as McMorrow repeats the line, “Time wasn’t the only kind of now.” As it builds it sounds not so much like a love song, but a futuristic cuckoo clock’s depiction of love. While mechanical, it makes for a uniquely moving listening experience. Other tracks, like “Repeating”, seam together Mumford and Sons-style urgency with lush atmospheric textures. The snare drum rolls and sequenced synth arpeggios culmiate in what sounds like one big cosmic acoustic guitar. McMorrow combines different musical styles with tact, making songs like “Repeating” captivating listens.

As its title implies, the sounds  on “Post Tropical” come from a place beyond our conception of paradise. McMorrow is unafraid to echo artists like Coldplay and Mumford and Sons, reinterpreting their sounds in a way that’s more nuanced and less sacharinne. He proves there’s beauty in the mechanical through the use of sequenced and spartan drum patterns.While “Post Tropical” is not the most varied in song structures or musical textures, the album’s cohesion and ingenuity show a lot of promise in McMorrow as a pioneer in the neo-folk movement. Keep your eyes out for this guy.



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