Former Woods bassist pens love letter to cities

Kansas City-via-Brooklyn-via-Los Angeles songwriter Kevin Morby got his start as the bassist in Woods, later forming the Babies with Vivian Girls' Cassie Ramone, and then releasing his solo debut in 2013. Morby is a Dylan disciple through and through, but he favors a deadpan vocal delivery, which often becomes the only tethered part of his songs. The rest of the music — organ drones, slightly psychedelic guitars, distant snare hits — seems to float overhead in a dreamlike haze.

Morby's 2017 album, City Music, is the urban, darker companion to 2016's pastoral Singing Saw, and the metropolitan influences add some jagged edges and a bit of rust to Morby's sepia-toned aura. Morby has described City Music as “a mixtape, a fever dream, a love letter dedicated to those cities that I cannot get rid of, to those cities that are all inside of me.”

“1234” is about as punk-rock as Morby gets; the track serves as an homage to both the Ramones and Jim Carroll's “People Who Died.” “Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy/They were all my friends/And they died,” he sings over fuzzed-out guitars. Much of the record, though, feels less caustic, like the warm sodium glow of city streets at night. (Safe bet)