After spending two albums in the shadow of Bon Iver and James Blake, the R&B infused falsetto of James Vincent McMorrow is ready to step out and make waves. McMorrow teams up with various producers whose credits include Kanye West, Drake, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj, among others, to create his smoothest album yet. We Move offers an expansive collection of sounds from many different genres, all tied together with McMorrow’s brilliant vocals. This new sound is extremely accessible to listeners both sonically and lyrically.
McMorrow brings it early with “Rising Water,” which was also the first single. The upbeat rhythms with outstanding harmonies, dive head first into the new R&B style of the record. “Rising Water” shows McMorrow’s comfort level with this new style, it suits him well. It is distinctly different sound than what McMorrow fans will be used to, but it isn’t a difficult transition as the vocals remain as smooth as ever.
“I Lie Awake Every Night” stirs up grooves reminiscent of Ne-Yo or R. Kelly, and offers a wider picture of the sound of this album as opposed to the upbeat opener. Driven by the strong groove of the electronic drums, “I Lie Awake Every Night” feels like solid ballad from an R&B expert, not a newcomer like McMorrow.
“Evil” offers the deepest lyrical content, on top of the hip-hop style groove, presenting one of the strongest songs of the record. McMorrow cuts deep, writing a beautiful message of trying to decide what kind of person he truly is. The gospel inspired harmonies echoing McMorrow’s struggles of self-discovery strongly tie the chaos together. The production on this song is outstanding, with repeating melodies and ominous bass synths sonically conveying the same conflict presented in the lyrics.
“Get Low” brings one of the few instances of organic instruments as electric guitar opens the song. Produced by Nineteen85 (Drake, Nicki Minaj), “Get Low” sounds the most similar to previous albums, yet McMorrow still delivers a cool and unique combination of 808’s and synths with his singer/songwriter writing style. McMorrow proves gifted at blurring genre lines here.
McMorrow uses “Seek Another” to show off his vocal skills, which deserve to be considered near the top of the list of best vocalists around these days. Driven by harmonies, the song never really expands the way it seems like it should. The droning drum groove builds tension throughout without ever letting it truly open up, allowing the vocals to be showcased completely.
Seemingly a song to justify the change in sound, “Lost Angles” talks about taking risks and living life to the fullest. “Lost Angles” closes out an incredible album explaining that McMorrow felt a strong need to create something different, exclaiming “Don’t let fear control you!” McMorrow delivers a Sam Smith-esque performance over a subtle piano in a distinct change of pace from the rest of the album.
We Move is strong on so many levels, vocally, lyrically, and sonically. We Move should push McMorrow out from the shadows and the typical folk artist stereotype, and propel him as one of the stronger artists in Pop music. While a rise like that of Sam Smith is unlikely, it wouldn’t be unwarranted for McMorrow as We Move presents his biggest sound yet. McMorrow’s music deserves some time in the spotlight as We Move is just the latest in an incredible run of albums to start his career.
We Move is released on September 2, 2016, and can be streamed now on NPR First Listen.