Kevin Morby’s biblical hangover

Three years ago, Kevin Morby thought that he might already be in Hell. He’d just returned from a tour in support of his third LP, Singing Saw, to find Los Angeles, his adopted home, on fire. He’d broken up with his partner, so he was subletting a stranger’s house; Donald Trump was about to be confirmed as the Republican presidential nominee; the hills were ablaze and wildfires were spewing ash into the sky. He’d read the news and think one of three things: Holy Shit. Jesus Christ. Oh My God. He was locked into a panic. “I felt like I couldn’t turn my brain off,” he says. “I couldn’t turn the world off.”

Eventually he snapped. “I didn’t find a God and I didn’t find a religion, but I figured: If I die, I die. If some psychopath shows up with a gun because no one wants to limit those guns — it’s going to happen. There was nowhere else to go but just finding some sort of serenity.” Alone in a burning city, so far beyond stress that he felt tranquil, he began to trace the outlines of what would become the double LP Oh My God, his fifth solo album, out April 26 on Dead Oceans. It’s a secular rock record consumed by religious imagery and vocabulary, from the exclamation point mantras on “Seven Devils” through the mortal fear of “Piss River” and the moral angst of “I Want to Be Clean.” It’s also a distillation of the swaggering, retrofitted guitar music that Morby has been refining for the past decade-plus: sonically minimal, effortlessly lyrical, darkly comic. For the first time in his career, it has Morby feeling accepting the world and his fate within it — not quite hopeful, but no longer racked by fear. “And if I die too young, if the locusts come / Well I don’t give a fucking shit,” he slurs on “OMG Rock n Roll.”

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