James Vincent McMorrow’s voice is arrestingly beautiful. I say that because it’s in clear contrast to his physical looks. Don’t judge me; if he looked as striking as his voice sounds, people would accuse him of being an angel.
NPR Music holds these Tiny Desk Concerts where they get artists to come to their office in NYC and play acoustically for their staff. When I first found out they did this, I immediately went to look for job openings at NPR Music. No luck. Dang.
NPR films the Tiny Desk Concerts and put them on YouTube, and the performances are often fantastic (and the artists usually obscure). Some of my favorite performers for Tiny Desk include James Vincent McMorrow, Phoenix, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Obviously not obscure bands, but those are just the first few that come to mind. The Macklemore one is particularly fun, because he has to perform in a very small, enclosed space and it still rocks.
Anyway, I love these Tiny Desk recordings because they feel ridiculously intimate. If you watch by yourself, in your room, with good speakers, it feels like you’re getting a private concert.
Some of the performances are more intimate than others, and James Vincent McMorrow’s is as intimate as it gets. You basically spend the entire time up in his face, and man, is it an interesting face. The way it contorts, the way it moves, the emotions it channels, are captivating. You really feel like you get to know him way better than you should ever get to know a stranger, just by watching this man sing, by watching this man mimic an angel.
My favorite three tracks of his are “We Don’t Eat,” “If I Had a Boat,” and “Higher Love,” and they’re all incredibly pure and beautiful. It doesn’t seem like they could get any better. Somehow, someway, though, Plassix & staenki took “We Don’t Eat,” added a super-chill minimal techno vibe, and turned the magic dial way, way up. Check it out.
Then check out James Vincent McMorrow’s Tiny Desk Concert. If you want to see my favorite performance, skip to 4:25, where he sings “Sparrow and the Wolf.”
Two more things:
1) If you don’t have a set of high-quality speakers, which increases the enjoyment of music like James Vincent McMorrow’s by multiples, get Harman Kardon Soundsticks. They’re really great value for the sound quality.
2) If you have not yet heard Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” sit down and listen to the whole thing at least once through. It takes 75 minutes, it’s amazing, and it’s free.