REVIEW: John Moreland’s “LP5” is Shift in Production, Still Mining the Soul


John Moreland’s latest release, LP5, arrives on 4AD on February 7th. Of immediate note is a shift in production that sonically sets this release apart from previous efforts. What is not different however, is the solid songwriting at the core of this effort; Moreland raises the bar with each line. Produced by Centro-Matic’s Matt Pence, recorded at The Echo Lab in Denton, Texas, and featuring guests performances from Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, San South Gabriel, Monsters of Folk), Bonnie Whitmore, and John Calvin Abney – Moreland’s traveling sideman.

LP5 finds Moreland mining the depths of the soul present in the daily mundane in a manner few songwriters can match. Word play and sincerity intermingle in meditative delight while acoustic guitar provides the bedrock for electronic rhythms, electric guitar, and engulfing reverb.

“All the gods are watching wars on television,” sings Moreland to open the record on “Harder Dreams.” He continues to paint a grim picture of the modern American dream, the harder dream, as he continues, “placing their bets and telling jokes about religion, crowded in for the sins we study on the silver screens…I hear your sermon, but I don’t think I believe, harder dreams.”

“How I am every gonna get by all by myself,” Moreland asks on “East October”. He answers, “I’m trying to keep it simply, but ain’t these gods are so damn fickle, you’re stiff and strong then you’re scared and sober, North Carolina, East October.” Each line on LP5 exists as a world unto itself as well as a building block for Moreland universal sentiment.

“You gave me a purpose, I could not complete the task, as a child repented my nature, as a man I repented my past,” he sings on “Terrestrial” as piano and hammer on guitar mix with electro-twitch rhythms. “Star crossed eyes and cross eyed stars, no use hiding angel scars, well you’re not here and I can’t be still, I don’t think I sleep until I see you,” Moreland sings and sets the stage for “When My Fever Breaks” before building to a chorus, “hold my hand and ease my aches, wake me up when my fever breaks, I’m laying down my soul, the answers I can know and the pain I never thought I could let go of” over an easy-listening keyboard and straight drums accompanied by subtle beeps and boops.

“I’ll Always Let You Burn Me to the Ground” continues to build on similar lyrical and sonic themes. Instrumentals “Two Stars” and “For Ichiro” act as mid-album pallet cleansers, before Moreland returns to mine the tribulations and success of his soul. This collection closes with “Let Me Be Understand”, a universal sentiment if ever there was one. “I used to walk around with shackles on my hands, back when I still needed you to tell me who I am,” he sings. “Before you hang me for my story, lord let me be understood,…but I feel sure footed, hope I’m going somewhere good, no time to sit and wonder, lord let me be understood,” he pleads.

A great American songwriter adds another great album to an already stellar collection, LP5 finds Moreland continuing to build on an already remarkable reputation. Let’s hope that electronic sonic flourishes open new ears to the simple guitar driven odes to life in all its tragic beauty that are John Moreland’s songs. If ever there was a song writer that deserved a wider audience, it is John Moreland. Do your ears and your soul a favor and give LP5 a listen today.

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