Singing Saw is the third solo album by former Woods bassist and founder of The Babies, Kevin Morby. It is the follow up to 2014’s Still Life. He worked with a host of musicians including Apollo Sunshine and Yellowbirds guitarist Sam Cohen, singer Hannah Cohen and John Andrews of Quilt, who played the eponymous singing saw. Available on limited edition indies only coloured vinyl LP, standard vinyl LP and CD. On Dead Oceans.
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I want nothing more than aspirational psych-folkie Kevin Morby to make a golden solo record. The sauntering and curiously hypnotic ‘Harlem River’ showed great promise; ‘Still Life’, with its slight, Dylan-scaped tunes, failed to deliver on it. I would sell Laurie’s house for the record where Morby finally straddled his love of easy-as-pie ‘70s folk with his bolder proclamations… and it seems like Morby would be interested in buying, too, because ‘Singing Saw’ is so close. It’s a real reach of a record: it starts softly and nervously before bursting in with “I Have Been To The Mountain”, a brass-addled affair that fanfares its way to the peak. As they say in boring tennis matches, “game on”.
Morby’s coming from all corners on this one, and trying his best not to cut any of them: there’s ambition and foresight and fine imagery and good musical exercise. On the title track, he makes the singing saw a protagonist while using it to craft spooky half-melodies, letting his erstwhile guitar riff drone into the distance. A choir joins him -- they seem interested in whether he can pull it off. For these two tracks, and the gorgeous “Dororthy”, I feel like Morby is on top of the world, or at least struggling towards it.
There are other moments where I’m like whatever, and that breaks my heart: “Drunk and On A Star” breaks both the character of the record and its tempo for one of those tunes where Morby sorta just mumbles over a lucid, nostalgic guitar tone. It goes nowhere, and that’s a damn shame. There are moments like this, and their only problem is that they can’t keep the maximal tempo Morby has running. For the most part, though, this record is a step in the right direction: towards a grandiose and kinda weird version of an otherwise bashful modern folkie.
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