Kevin Morby steps away from his roles in Woods and The Babies to craft an intimate tale of desperation, loneliness and addiction. Stepping his songwriting up a notch from the ramshackle lullabies of The Babies, here he's in full on troubadour garb, reaching from the moment that "Miles, Miles, Miles" cues up for the plaintive ache of personal experience, and universal resonance. Weaving his path through a tangle of influences with whiffs of Dylan, Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen but also sitting well with his latter day contemporaries Alex Bleeker and Kurt Vile. The album is dipped in a kind of twilight hush that sways between wistful and wanting. This tends to leave Morby's songs teetering through last call swallows and pre-dawn wanders, where the endless sidewalks allow a few hours of stumbled rumination. In that sense Harlem River seems to stand up as Morby's self-described ode to New York, but the noir production on the title track and a bit of the sun-baked guitar picking elsewhere certainly fit it in well with his new Los Angeles digs. The album has more bite than his previous work with The Babies and here's hoping that he only finds his way deeper into the solo stint.
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