“All the gods are watching wars on television / Placing their bets and telling jokes about religion.”
Thus runs the introduction to LP5‘s opening gambit, ‘Harder Dreams‘, and, despite its Nebraska era Springsteen feel, reveals a side to John Moreland that has, hitherto, been relatively scarce in the Oklahoman’s recorded history – a playfully tongue in cheek bent which is as charming as it is surprising.
Of course, most of LP5 is made up of swoonsome melodies and achingly beautiful lyrics, not least on the heartfelt tribute to his loving wife, ‘When My Fever Breaks‘. But it’s not all ballads and blissful bonhomie. Anyone who delved into Moreland’s 2017 album Big Bad Luv will be only too aware of just how much more he is capable of, and once again, he proves that here in spades.
‘A Thought Is Just A Passing Train‘, for instance, has peak Dylan stamped all over it, from its title alone, right down to the arrangement and subsequent delivery, though there are shades of both Steely Dan and JJ Cale to be found here also.
The beatific instrumental ‘For Ichiro‘, meanwhile, feels like a recuperation period, lying on a collapsible deckchair during a bright, sunny day, with nothing but the gentle water features drip drip dripping nearby. Not many artists can pack this much emotion to an instrumental, but this is just about as poetic as you can get.
Lp5, as is blatantly obvious from the title, is Moreland’s fifth long player, and happily, he seems to be going from strength to strength, the songs here comprising his most coherent set yet, many of them right up there with the greatest tracks he has released thus far. ‘I Always Let You Burn Me To The Ground‘ is a particular highlight, Moreland’s trademark husky voice over a sparse, ethereal backdrop of strings and tender, soft beats creating the irresistibly romantic atmosphere for which he has become renowned.
It is, however, not really worth picking and choosing favourites from LP5. The fact is that, as a whole, John Moreland’s latest record is simply beautiful on the grandest of scales.