Album Review: John Moreland, 'LP5'

by Kelly McCartney (@theKELword), for Folk Alley

John Moreland LP5 Album Review Folk Alley

For a writer of any kind, not wanting to — or not being able to — put pen to paper is a pretty horrifying phase to enter. It can start for a variety of reasons, but it can only end by sitting down and finding a way into the work. Often, it means letting go of the internal and external pressures to write something “good,” in order to just write something. That seems to have been the case with singer/songwriter John Moreland.

Over the past handful of years, Moreland found his footing in Americana circles. But being hailed and held up as a masterful truth-teller, spending more time on the road than off, and other elements of that success took their toll, pushing Moreland into a writer's block, of sorts. Thankfully, he broke through it and brought his best work yet along with him.

Dubbed LP5, the album is a gloriously fulsome piece of art, with textures and soundscapes we hadn't previously associated with the Tulsa artist. The opening cut, “Harder Dreams,” is punctuated by a sonic structure that wouldn't be out of place on an album from the National as it details the reaching for something higher in life, rather than simply settling for the beliefs passed down through churches, culture, and consumerism for whom the cruelty is the point.

Moreland shoves that idea aside, time and again, on LP5, preferring instead to fill himself and his songs with messages of mindfulness and kindness, starting with himself. With a pep in its step that belies its pointedness, “Terrestrial” takes on religion, in particular, and how it leverages sin into shame. In one verse, Moreland offers, “Sing hallelujah. I was lost, but now I'm found. Come on in, we'll treat you like kin, long as you don't make a scene or a sound,” before flipping the coin further in, “Sing hallelujah. I was found, but now I'm lost. I heard the call and I bet it all, never even added the cost.” Over a mesmerizing percussive backdrop, “I Always Let You Burn Me to the Ground” offers a similarly stunning rebuke of the things we're taught that cause us to internalize all that shame and self-doubt.

Muted toms and crisp snares, fuzzy electrics and bright acoustics, programmed loops and rough-hewn vocals... in the environment created by Moreland's exquisite songwriting, all the elements co-exist with just enough tension to keep things captivating. Whatever it was that Moreland had to endure to emerge with LP5, it might not have seemed worth it, at the time, but it certainly seems so, in hindsight.

LP5 is available now at Apple Music and Amazon.

Upcoming tour dates:

MAR 14, 2020
Meteor Guitar Gallery
Bentonville, AR
w/ Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

MAR 15, 2020
South on Main
Little Rock, AR
w/ Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

MAR 17, 2020
Birmingham, AL
w/ Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

MAR 18, 2020
Terminal West
Atlanta, GA
w/ Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster

MAR 20, 2020
The Basement East
Nashville, TN
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 21, 2020
Bijou Theatre
Knoxville, TN
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 22, 2020
The Grey Eagle
Asheville, NC
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 24, 2020
Haw River Ballroom
Saxapahaw, NC
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 25, 2020
Black Cat
Washington, DC
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 27, 2020
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 28, 2020
World Cafe Live
Philadelphia, PA
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 29, 2020
The Sinclair
Cambridge, MA
w/ S.G. Goodman

MAR 31, 2020
Montreal, QC
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 1, 2020
Horseshoe Tavern
Toronto, ON
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 3, 2020
Thalia Hall
Chicago, IL
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 4, 2020
The Rust Belt
East Moline, IL
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 5, 2020
The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee
Milwaukee, WI
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 7, 2020
Fine Line Music Cafe
Minneapolis, MN
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 8, 2020
The Waiting Room
Omaha, NE
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 9, 2020
Wichita, KS
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 11, 2020
Tower Theatre
Oklahoma City, OK
w/ S.G. Goodman

APR 30, 2020
Kessler Theater
Dallas, TX
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 1, 2020
The Heights Theater
Houston, TX
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 2, 2020
Antone's Nightclub
Austin, TX
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 5, 2020
191 Toole
Tucson, AZ
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 7, 2020
Teragram Ballroom
Los Angeles, CA
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 8, 2020
The Independent
San Francisco, CA
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 10, 2020
Doug Fir Lounge
Portland, OR
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 12, 2020
Wise Hall
Vancouver, Canada
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 13, 2020
Neptune Theatre
Seattle, WA
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 15, 2020
The State Room
Salt Lake City, UT
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 16, 2020
Bluebird Theater
Denver, CO
w/ Will Johnson

MAY 17, 2020
Lulu's Downstairs
Colorado Springs, CO
w/ Will Johnson

AUG 6, 2020
Bellwether Festival
Waynesville, OH

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