Blake Morgan has been a force on the New York music scene for years, with an unprecedented six-year run of sold-out concerts at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall. A songwriter’s songwriter and producer, Morgan excels at twisty, pop rock melodies and engulfing power pop hooks, both of which are on full display on his latest album Violent Delights.
This is an album by an artist who has long since found his own voice and become fearless with it, letting himself craft heart-on-his-sleeve tracks with memorable lyrical conceits stacked around gloriously big choruses. Take opening salvo “Down Below or Up Above”, a love song built on a thriving bass progression and impeccable harmonies. As Morgan sings “I could hope and pray, I could lose my way, I could go down below or up above”, he takes the vocal melodies in directions that recall some of the best 80’s pop rock hits. It’s the melancholy lilt and ache inflected in his voice that separates it from the glossy minivan rock of the 90’s and early 2000’s.
The versatility of his voice is on display again on “My Love is Waiting”, with it taking on a smooth, airy quality. Morgan’s musicality also shines through here, as the initial crescendoing piano is given a counter melody, while drums and synths drive up the tempo. There’s a lot of brightness on Violent Delights, from the funky groove and power pop chorus of “Baby I Would Want You”, to the shimmying “We Won’t Look Down”. Yet there’s also a darkness to much of Morgan’s music.
The thumping bass and droning guitars on “Long Goodbye” mirror the intensity of Morgan’s pain, as Morgan sings “Won’t let you see I’m scared”. Then there’s “A Helping Hand”, which has a nerve-wracking moodiness, though it’s balanced by the harmonies on the pop-leaning chorus; a proper mix of The Outfield and The Cure, with some versatile drumming thrown in. And “Farewell My Heart” gets under your skin, with its eerie melancholy and tonal shifts. This one and “Refuse to Lose You”, with their key changes and unexpected notes echo the music of Jeff Buckley; powerful yet sorrowful rock with pop and jazz leanings.
Blake Morgan feels like an artist destined to be truly appreciated only by a handful of true music aficionados, though there’s plenty on Violent Delights that deserves mass appeal. Listen to the album in full on May 20th, and listen to the pre-released tracks here.