James Vincent McMorrow: 5 Albums That Changed My Life
James Vincent McMorrow is a singer-songwriter reinvented.
Back in September the acclaimed Irish musician released his third studio album, We Move, which garnered huge critical praise and peaked at #1 in his home country. Described as “A menacing pop record, perfect for a drive in L.A.” by The FADER, and featuring producers such as Nineteen85 (Drake, dvsn), and Frank Dukes (Kanye West, Rihanna), We Move marked a pivotal shift in McMorrow’s musical style, eschewing his indie folk foundation for the sounds of neo-soul and R&B.
As the album was being recorded, McMorrow kept track of all the progress being made. Notes, live recordings, alternate takes, and raw material from the album were all saved and compiled into a completely new album, We Move: Early Recordings and Alternate Versions – currently streaming exclusively on TIDAL. The album has a sound that is completely unique, raw and pure. Asked to describe Early Recordings and Alternate Versions, McMorrow says:
“While I was working on We Move, the whole time I kept track of where the songs began, with the intention of putting something together that would serve as a separate artifact as to how it all came together. That’s what this version is. Not solo versions, but alternate versions and initial ideas. They’re raw, plain spoken, unadulterated, so that people could listen and hear the songs at the core of the production, the initial idea, the initial thought. Then when they listen to the full album, my hope is that they’ll have a little more insight into what it means to make a record like this, the journey it can take.”
Below, we caught up with James Vincent McMorrow to talk about the five albums that changed his life and influenced his sound. Listen to his playlist, Songs That Inspired ‘We Move’, here.
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The National: Boxer
Hearing this album was like hearing a piece of a musical puzzle I never knew was missing until it arrived one day. Matt’s baritone voice, the sheer directness of the lyrics, the textures they weave are so stately and ornate. They were making pop songs but in a way that was equal amounts tragedy and elation. I have no idea how they achieve that blend, but it still means as much to me now as when I first heard it 9 years ago.
Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
For me the most important male singer of my lifetime, not only in terms of the sounds he uses and the songs he sings, which are flawless, but also in terms of how he perceives music, the decisions he makes – it’s all based on heart and emotion. I dare anyone to listen to “Casimir Pulaski Day” and not shed several tears.
N.E.R.D.: In Search of
This is the album that made me want to make music. I was a huge Neptunes fan before I heard this, and seeing a group like that incorporate sounds and ideas like this, the chords they used, live instrumentation over programming, it blew my mind. They weren’t accepting the roles that had been assigned to them as hip-hop producers, they were ignoring all limitations and just doing what felt right, bringing in Steely Dan ideas, Donny Hathaway ideas; it was so bold and exciting to me.
Donny Hathaway: These Songs for You, Live!
Donny’s live records are his greatest work. The best live performer I’ve ever heard; in my opinion the best singer the world has ever been given. He could interpret other peoples’ songs as well if not better than those who wrote them. He was such a master, his live rendition of “A Song For You” by Leon Russell is easily the one song that has had the most profound impact on me as a musician and as a music fan.
Fiona Apple: When the Pawn…
If you were to force me to pick a favourite record, it would be this one. This album came into my life at a point where I needed it; to hear someone put themselves out there on the line song after song in the most harrowing and honest way, to hear a voice that could go from jazz perfection to gravelly screaming in an instant, the way she was capturing the dark underbelly of what it meant to be a musician working in Los Angeles. Jon Brion, who produced it, is someone I’m a huge fan of too and he seemed to be able to provide a colour and a shape to her songs that was so unique and still sounds as vital to me now as it did then. It’s flawless.
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