Home Geek LifeCulture Vinyl Me, Please June Edition: Kevin Morby ‘City Music’

Vinyl Me, Please June Edition: Kevin Morby ‘City Music’

by Patrick Phillips

Vinyl Me, What? Vinyl Me, Please!!

Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club…it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month. In their living room.

The Skinny

Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $25/month) and they send you one meticulously selected album worthy of your time and attention. Easy, right? Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with special features like original artwork and even a recipe for a companion cocktail. Best of all, you get access to the VMP online store. That means you’ll have a chance to grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including May’s jaw dropping re-issue of Fiona Apple’s landmark album Tidal – plus additional rare and exclusive releases.

The store is open, and Team VMP has curated another stellar list of releases for vinyl lovers of all sets. Like a killer reissue of A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s killer noise-pop debut Ashes Grammar (2LP, black/color-in-color vinyl, ltd to 1,000 copies) or a 10th anniversary pressing of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyerfrom dance punk maestros Of Montreal (2LP, yellow and red vinyl). Did somebody say anniversary? ‘Cause Radiohead’s OK Computer is turning 20 this year. Yes, Vinyl Me, Please will be carrying that ridiculous OKNOTOK box set you’ve all been drooling over. That’s three LPs. One cassette. One gorgeous hardcover book with all kinds of goodies inside. Wipe up the drool. Fork over your money. You need this box set in your collection. While you’re at it, go ahead and grab yourself a copy of Love from psychedelic folkie Amen Dunes. It’ll be in this month’s store as a Selector Series pick from Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield. It might be my favorite album released in the past 15 years or so. I’m betting it’ll be one of yours too. Check it out.

There’s more. A lot more. While the store is now open to the public, many of VMP’s more exciting selections are only available to members. So you’ll have to sign up if you wanna get your mits on them. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection over to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP AOM pick you don’t like for a past release that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.

So, what about June’s Album of the Month? Kevin Morby brings the sounds of the city to us with his City Music.

For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND

Most people think of skyscrapers, crowded sidewalks, and an endless orchestra of noise when they think about city life. They don’t often consider that most city dwellers interact more with the city itself than with the throngs of strangers that surround them. More often than not, living in a city means embracing – or at least enduring – a particular sort of melancholic isolation. The wistful underbelly of city life has driven most of the great art, literature, and music throughout history. And it’s at the heart of Kevin Morby’s ambitious new album City Music.

Unfolding with a vibrant, laid back vibe and a folky fervor, the 12 tracks that form City Music are scattered across the crowded trains, lonely late night sidewalks, and crumbling tenement buildings of an unnamed city … and they provide a winking, back alley tour of a city unknown and the hungry hearts that call it home.

That tour begins with ‘Come To Me Now’ – an aching, contemplative tune that finds Morby’s haunting voice calling for a companion through a hushed pipe organ and echo. ‘Come To Me Now’ sounds like a prayer spoken to an empty room lit by blinking neons before fading into the darkness. It sets a somber tone for City Music, but Morby quickly picks things up with ‘Crybaby’. Driven by jangly guitars and a propulsive, rhythmic energy, ‘Crybaby’ is equal parts indie rock opus, girl-group pop, and folky confessional. It’s kinda sad, kinda sweet, and endlessly catchy. And I’m guessing it’ll make more than a few summer playlists.

‘Crybaby’ followup ‘1234’ is likely to find a place on some of those playlists too. Clocking in at a paltry one minute and forty-seven seconds, ‘1234’ is punk rock incarnate, at once paying homage and tribute to the Ramones with a bristling beat that’s certain to have you bouncing around your apartment for a solo dance party. Two tracks later Morby takes that dance party on a slow turn across the floor with ‘Dry Your Eyes’, a wonderfully weepy number with gospel-tinged backing vocals and the slickest dueling guitar parts you’re likely to hear this year.

From there, City Music takes a dramatic turn with Meg Baird’s spoken word reading of a passage from Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away. It’s a stunning, but confounding moment that gives you a moment to breathe after the anxious spirit of ‘Dry Your Eyes’ even as it feels a bit out-of-place on the album itselfMorby gets back on course with the title track. ‘City Music’ slowly builds its meandering guitars and simple chorus into six-plus minutes of jam-pop perfection that encapsulates the sprawling energy of city life. The track should please even the most devout fans of iconic New York bands like The Velvet Underground and Television as well.

Track by track, City Music is an album that owes as much to influences past as it does to music of today. And Morby makes no particular effort to hide those influences … even when he’s not directly referencing them. Throughout City Music you’ll hear other gentle and not so gentle nods to artists like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and even Bruce Springsteen. You’ll hear a stripped down version of a classic from The Germs in ‘Caught In My Eye’. You’ll even hear a song written from the POV of Morby’s favorite character from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Somehow Morby spins all of those influences into a sparkling, timeless tapestry of life in the city. One that’s drenched in the hopes, the desires, and the claustrophobic angst of the people who live there. And one that’s certain to resonate with city dweller inside all of us.

Cover Matters

City Music is an album that revels in reflection … of time and of place and of self. So, this cover shot is kind of a no brainer. And make sure you read through that short story on the back, ’cause it’s lovely.

City Music

But What’s in the Box!?

Before you start ripping into the plastic, make sure you check the important info on this little sticker.

City Music

As always, VMP’s Tyler Barstow has a few lovely words to say about this month’s release.

Be sure to send some love back to the Vinyl Me, Please staffer who lovingly packed your disc. Thanks AC. Is that a C? I can’t quite tell. Thanks all the same!

Make sure you flip that insert over so you can check out City Music‘s companion cocktail from FEW Spirits founder/distiller Paul Hletko. It’s called a ‘Doesn’t Fall For’. It’s got bourbon and ginger beer in it, so it should make for a tasty summer beverage.

Give yourself a moment to dig on this slick 12″ X 12″ print from LA based artist/designer Robbie Simon too.

City Music

And make sure to have a gander at this handy little insert before visiting the VMP store. Yes, they’ve got a reissue of The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan coming to the store.

Before you start digging in that sleeve, make sure you check out this little stamp on the corner. Exclusive. Pressing. That’s what Team VMP does.

What’s in that sleeve? How about this 12-page booklet chock full of liner notes, photographs, and lyrics. Nice.

City Music

What about that disc, you ask?

City Music

It looks like ice cream. And you’ll want to devour it with the same fervor.

How’s it sound? Like listening to your super-hip grandmother tell you stories about her wilder days living alone amongst the propulsive energy of the big city.

Give It a Spin

I love vinyl. And I love the ritual of spinning records. But I’ve never really been a believer that it’s important to hear an album for the first time that way. City Music might change my mind about that. It’s an album that feels familiar, but it doesn’t really sound like anything else. It’s playful and humble and dares to explore humanity’s endless need for connection. There’s a warmth and an energy at play in Kevin Morby’s music here that simply will not resonate through a digital format of any kind. City Music demands to be heard on vinyl. I’d like to thank the folks at Vinyl Me, Please for giving me the chance to discover it that way. And thanks for making every month another chance for a musical revelation. ’Cause that’s what listening to music is all about.

A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the official Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each month! Can’t wait to see what crunchy treat they pick for July!

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