No. 1

Major Murphy

Winspear, 2018

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The Grand Rapids trio Major Murphy has been kicking around for a little while with a couple of EPs, but their full-length debut is better than those records, if not very different. The disc is a brisk 37 minutes of sunny, hazy, low-key indie pop rock, not quite right for a party but rather for a leisurely solo twilight listen.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Major Murphy’s sound incorporates ‘60s psychedelic and pop sounds into its upbeat fold, with ready Beatles influences (“No. 1,” “One Day”) rubbing shoulders with ‘70s AM light rock (“Stepping Out”) and the Velvet Underground (“When I Go Out”), which actually is more like the Cowboy Junkies covering the Velvet Underground, but whatever. The most exciting moment is “Radi-Yum,” which ditches the keyboards for a cowbell and sounds a bit like Blur meets “Hot Blooded,” which makes more sense than it sounds on paper.

The album is not simply a quilt of retro sounds, though, but is calibrated for modern society, albeit one where anxiety, faith and self-doubt are lyrically swirled together. These emotions are mirrored as much in the lyrics as they are in the music and Jacob Bullard and Jacki Warren’s vocal harmonies. The music is controlled, midtempo and yet evocative, flowing naturally from the trio but never really arriving at a destination. And although the sound may not seem like it at first, most of No. 1 was recorded live, which is fairly impressive in this age of digital manipulation.

No. 1 is too low-key to rise to must-hear status, but its best moments (the title track and “Radi-Yum”) show an up-and-coming band with something to say and using time-tested musical cues to say it. Worth dropping by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Rating: B-

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