Despite what an album name like Oh My God might suggest, Kevin Morby is not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or even atheist. On his fifth studio album, Morby’s religious affiliation may as well be categorized as “fecklessly analytical”. He stares blankly at the daunting concepts of theology, faith, and devotion with wide-eyed astonishment, unsure of what words or actions will lead him to spiritual clarity. It’s an introspective album about belief from the eyes of wavering skeptic – a concept just crazy enough to spellbind listeners into a deep state of reflection about all things divine and secular.
Kevin Morby’s vocal style has always been naturally conversational. On Oh My God, this style lends itself to a personal, unfocused discussion about the existence of a higher power. He abstains from asserting any bigoted opinions about religion or the world around him, but rather inquisitively croons about spirituality in his personal life. The pain of growing old and his innumerable unanswered prayers fill Morby with doubt, while the awesome power of a god keeps Morby’s emotions and aspirations in check. Over and over he rehashes the album’s namesake, repeating “Oh my god” and “Oh my lord” either as a muddled curse or as an exclamatory cry for deliverance. He continues to assert his positivity by trying to “sing a glad song wherever I go”, but the more he speaks of salvation, the more confused he seems. Amidst all this questioning Morby still yearns for a spiritual call, repeatedly asking the theoretical deity to “carry me home”. The closing track’s chorus “horns from my head, wings from my shoulders”) makes it quite obvious that Morby hasn’t been fully convinced of a spiritual conclusion, but some holy sect still clearly affected him with the potential hope/fear of eternal sanctity.
The sounds used to represent Morby’s spiritual inquisition are a thing of songwriting mastery. He moseys between rock, blues, jazz, and gospel to represent his emotional volatility in the face of overwhelming uncertainty. He supports that volatility with rickety, vintage-sounding instruments that sound like they were written into each song as separate, sequestered variables. The piano, organ, and a large choir all emulate familiar instruments and sounds one might hear in a church setting. Their isn’t a congruent, linear sound from front to back, and that’s just the way Morby intended it. He wanted the quest for spiritual answers to seem arduous, leaving Oh My God just as optimistic as it is disturbingly precarious.
Favorite Tracks: Oh My God, No Halo, Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild, Hail Mary, OMG Rock n Roll