Kevin Morby is a has never been tethered to a specific location. Considering Morby was born in Texas, grew up in Kansas City, and bounced around between massive metropolitan hubs like Brooklyn and Los Angeles during the entirety of his adult life, it’s difficult to define one place as his sole “home”. But if there’s anything that a virtually nomadic lifestyle taught Morby, it’s that the breadth of opportunities and excitement available in a city is staggering. Musically speaking, there’s no more enlightening creative catalyst than the cultural melting pot of urbanity.
Lyrically, “City Music” deliberately offers very little. Morby clearly never intended for the song to rattle off a laundry list of the city’s illustrious splendor, and for good reason. The thrill encapsulated within a city’s bustling borders is abstract and has to be experienced to be truly understood and appreciated. Morby explained this light lyrical approach to NPR, telling them “I wanted the lyrics to be as simple as possible — for the music to convey the real feeling and the lyrics to only act as a sort of guide. To me, the music represents what it feels like to walk through a photogenic part of a city alone, lost in your own world while surrounded by many.”
As a result, “City Music” is instrumentally bold with virtually no concept of time. The song starts with a slow bassline and light rim shots as if to replicate the anticipatory heartbeat of an urban adventure at its onset. A guitar enters as notes osculate up and down in a pattern that lends itself to a wide-eyed onlooker taking in all the wonderment a city has to offer. As Morby begins repeating the sparse refrain, the listener gets a feeling that this destination is filling a hole in Morby’s expectant soul. About four minutes into the song, the tempo finally picks up to simulate the heightened energy levels during the night’s climax. For a brief moment, Morby offers listeners the opportunity to dance around as if they were in the pit of a vivacious urban show. The tempo eventually drops down to it’s original pace after a few spry minutes, but not without the return of the osculating guitar and Morby’s simple chorus to symbolize that the city’s bewildering characteristics will be mentally replayed for some time to come.
Look around and you’ll see some familiar faces in the music video for “City Music”. The video hosts a number of cameos from fellow musicians, including Matt & Kim‘s Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino, Brazilian singer/songwriter Rodrigo Amarante, English rockstar Justin Sullivan, and Californian singer/songwriter Anna St. Louis, just to name a few. Their presence is amusing, but it shouldn’t be underplayed as a meaningless gesture of friendship meant to boost streaming numbers. At its core, the conceptual pull of “City Music” is the ability for a city’s inviting, industrious essence to bring diverse personalities together. This video is showcasing just that – these are musicians who can revel in the shared feeling of urban bliss, not only because it offered a successful platform for their live careers, but because it brought them closer as friends.