Cult hero and indie-folk rocker Kevin Morby has returned, and this time he’s shirtless. Not only is he back to provide us with an intimate look at his torso, he’s here to talk to us about religion, albeit mercifully under the guise of his fifth album, Oh My God. As undesirable as an unsolicited knock at the door from a scantily clad man wanting to talk about the lord and saviour, whom simultaneously offers up a 14-track concept record on religion sounds, thankfully there’s more to this album than its surface value.
Despite Morby’s self-admitting abstinence from holding any firm religious belief himself, references to spirituality across his work are abundant. Taking direction from the repetitive vocal hook of “oh my god, oh my lord” on ‘Beautiful Strangers’, this latest work is an expansive deep-dive on religion and the most unequivocal indication of Morby’s interest in the nuance of faith. The influence of spirituality goes much beyond the lyrical themes and artwork direction, with the guidance of gospel music unmistakable, imbuing the record with a sonic flavor that those attending Baptist church on Sundays wouldn’t be unfamiliar with.
The title track, as indeed the entire record, is seasoned with warm choral harmonies that lift the disposition and provide support for Morby’s signature vocal hum. ‘No Halo’ is pervaded by more clapping than the polite appreciative response to a sweet strike of cork meeting willow on an English cricket pitch, while the organ work on ‘Nothing Sacred/All Things Wild’ and ‘Hail Mary’ almost prompts one to pull out the hymn sheet. Audibly, the musical tools used to construct this record are far more stripped back, forcing Morby out from underneath the heavy façade of rock and roll used previously, dropping him firmly into the spotlight and a position of vulnerability. It’s definitely a step forward for the now well-seasoned man from Kansas, even if previous album City Music was more instantly relatable.