Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Sean McMorris, a relatively green artist who has just released his sophomore studio endeavor, ‘Elevated Man.’ The well-produced jaunt through folk and classic rock musings is a refreshing one, which is largely in part to his cohesive backing. He’s got a very full band backing him along with a solid producer. This is very nice, because sometimes independent artists get buried by the DIY nature of their work. Sean McMorris is untethered by that on this album, and as a result, the productions are clean and enjoyable.
When I first began spinning the album, I had to double-take when clicking the title track to make sure my Robyn Hitchcock playlist wasn’t still playing. Quite seriously, McMorris’ vocal style is eerily similar to Hitchcock’s. In fact, his musical and lyrical styles are too, and if someone was to ask me what ‘Elevated Man’ sounds most like, I’d point them in the direction of Robyn Hitchcock. That atmospheric, erratic imagery of people floating in lawn chairs is just lovely. I love songwriters that find ways to incorporate bizarre imagery: how would you put a lawn chair into a singer songwriter tune? Exactly.
‘Lay Down’ has some fine exhibitions of instrumental prowess, something that is most definitely a mainstay on the record. The slide guitars provide a nice country swing to the singer songwriter style of McMorris, but it’s definitely rooted in pop stylings. ‘Bent Out of Shape’ is the best track of the opening of the album, eclipsing the titular tune with its dynamic, infectiously catchy electric guitar riffs and organ sections. The soft-spoken ‘Unspoken’ follows with a somber, surprisingly emotional track. I love the synthesizer solo at the end.
That synthesizer, the steel guitars, and several other instrumental instances are indicative of something that I think is very important about ‘Elevated Man.’ McMorris breaks the monotony of your typical singer songwriter record with intriguing instrumental solos and varied techniques. This is immensely beneficial to the record because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reviewed a singer songwriter here on the Spotlight and been left with the same critique: it just gets repetitive and boring. These artists walk a fine line between monotony and creativity. McMorris walks on the latter due to his sharp production work.
‘Sweet Sarah Ruth’ and ‘Peace of Mind’ offer up some very soft territory that does wander and meander a bit. With that said, ‘Peace of Mind’ has an elegantly good chorus, and it sets the stage well for the excellent ‘Whirlwind.’ I love the minor key choruses of ‘Whirlwind;’ they create a poignantly powerful statement after the sublime ‘Peace of Mind’ and ‘Sweet Sarah Ruth’ recordings. ‘You Can Run’ is akin to the sounds of the title track and ‘Lay Down,’ which is a nice sonic return-to-form in the final several tracks of the record. Again, the highlight of ‘You Can Run’ is the instrumentation; I dig those riffs and guitar solos.
Unlike its namesake, ‘Broken Glass’ is incredibly smooth and easy going. It’s the best ‘soft song’ on the record, textured out fantastically with the steel guitar and crooning lead vocals. Lyrically, the vast majority of ‘Elevated Man’ deals with the end of a relationship. ‘Broken Glass’ is melancholy in this regard, not particularly finding any resolution as it refers to the heartbreaking thoughts as “friendly fire” on the soul. That’s powerful, though. ‘Tis,’ the finale, does have that sense of resolution, however, and thus, it’s an apt way to close out the collection.
Yes, ‘Elevated Man’ does meander at times, and it may have been a better eight or nine track experience. That said, McMorris’ creative decisions throughout mark him as one of the more talented and innovative voices in his genre in the indie scene right now. ‘Elevated Man’ is an exceptionally good singer songwriter effort riddled with pop, rock, and folk influences. It’s very much worth your time if singer songwriter music floats your boat. Check it out on BandCamp below.