Kevin Morby
Photo: Katie Crutchfield / Pitch Perfect PR

Kevin Morby’s ‘More Photographs (A Continuum)’ Expands the Conversation

More Photographs has its moments, and for anyone wanting to explore old photos, memory, and mortality with Kevin Morby, it broadens the thinking.

More Photographs (A Continuum)
Kevin Morby
Dead Oceans
26 May 2023

Kevin Morby‘s This Is a Photograph joined the musician’s various styles with some heavy thinking, becoming the best album of last year. Inspired by an old photo, Morby wrote about the past and memory with a concern for the quick slippage of time. That passage has personal and cultural implications, and the ideas can’t be pinned down in one album (sonically or visually). Since he wasn’t done with these topics, Morby needed to get more songs out of his system, hence the quick turnaround with the sequel, More Photographs (A Continuum). While this second part brings some new ideas to the conversation, it doesn’t quite capture the emotion or power of its predecessor.

This return album opens with a response to the key track of last year’s release. “This Is a Photograph II” gets a dance-flavored sound but brings a bitter look to memory. In the original song, Morby found power in our knowledge of mortality; here, everything takes a darker turn, warning us against the “dark horse” of the past. When he says, “This is what I’ll miss about being alive,” it sounds less like a celebration in the face of doom and more like a simple admission.

Other cuts on More Photographs rework previous recordings. “Bittersweet, Tennessee” keeps the lyrics, the melody, and the duet with Erin Rae, but it slows down considerably and replaces the banjo with an acoustic guitar. The new version is fine, but it doesn’t match the original, and while it might serve a purpose (continuing to sadden this release?), it feels more like a curious outtake than a new statement. Likewise, “Song for Katie” gives a melancholy tinge to the new version of “Stop Before I Cry”, but it doesn’t match the original, nor is this one different enough to warrant a second recording.

The new songs continue the steady exploration. “Going to Prom” alludes to the “This Is a Photograph” tracks while adding some depressive questioning. “Lion Tamer” adds a little twist and brings back the previous album’s Jeff Buckley reference by visiting his plaque at the Memphis Zoo. The spoken verse is a little much on the nose without doing enough creative work. More Photographs closes with “Kingdom of Broken Hearts”, described as an origin story for the twin albums. It builds effectively with some of the best music on the record, and the lyrics’ slanted entry into the LP’s primary topics makes it all the more compelling.

The issue with More Photographs isn’t so much that it’s flawed (though it is) but that it can’t stand up to the main album. Morby must be aware of the fact, adding “A Continuum” to the record’s title. After a string of exceptional releases throughout a decade-long solo career, this one does feel like an addendum, a record for hardcore fans. That’s a fine thing, but it underwhelms compared to what came before. Still, it has its moments, and for anyone wanting to explore old photos, memory, and mortality with Morby, it broadens the thinking.

RATING 6 / 10