Like a punk rock Huck Finn

Still digesting the bevy of albums released last week, including the latest from Matthew Sweet, Jason Lowenstein, Lost Balloons and Kevin Morby. Was especially looking forward to those last two and was somewhat taken aback at first by how quiet they both are. But growing on me, they are. Still think the standout track on Lost Balloons’ Hey Summer is the previously released single “Numb,” but the rest of the songs are sounding stronger with every listen. Soon it may even catch up to their self-titled debut in my rotation.

Kevin Morby’s City Music is also starting to inch up toward the high expectations I had after last year’s amazing Singing Saw. I’ve listened to the new release 4 or 5 times now and I’m finally starting to comprehend it, as a piece of Americana. While not really country or folk, Morby’s Dylanesque voice will always make his music lean that way in my ears. Apparently it’s a sort of concept album about some old woman named Mabel in the titular “City” of New York. But for me the main character is Morby himself, as a Brooklyn and L.A.-schooled musical carpetbagger about to lay siege to Nashville, or Memphis, or New Orleans.

This interpretation seemingly runs into trouble early at songs 2 and 3. “Crybaby” is a clean-guitar interpretation of a Pixies chord progression (and I like to think inspired by a John Waters film?), while “1234” is an unlikely sounding tribute to the Ramones and Jim Carroll. At first these stood out like sore thumbs, but the more I listen to the album the more they fit in just fine alongside the bluesy shuffle of “City Music,” the Guthrie/Dylan folk of “Downtown’s Light,” the spiritual “Dry Your Eyes,” and “Flannery,” which is simply a woman giving a dramatic reading of a section of O’Connor’s novel The Violent Bear It Away. Such is the great cultural hodgepodge that is the country that produced this unique voice. Kevin, if you’re planning on continuing your quest toward an American epic, I’ve got a title for your next album: Morby Dick. (Really, you can have it.)


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