Chris Morrissey: “Laughing and Laughing” – simply breathtaking in its composition and emotive power

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You can’t say that New York based Chris Morrissey doesn’t have an impressive musical pedigree. He was music director and bass player for Sara Bareilles from 2013-2015 and played on the Grammy Nominated “The Blessed Unrest”. Most recently he was the music director and bass player for Trixie Whitley, touring the US and Europe and playing on her live record “Sway”. Morrissey’s drummer Josh Dion, is also in Paris Monster and Esperanza Spaulding’s band, while his guitar player, Grey McMurray also plays with Beth Orton. Bass player and vocalist Chris Morrissey has recently released his labor of love, recorded in NYC at Grand Street Studios – the nine track album, “Laughing and Laughing” (2018).

Atmospheric, ethereal, sensory, umbrageous, progressive, these are all words that come to mind listening to this output of music from Chris Morrissey. When he sings, his words are more like another instrument emitting a tone of emotion rather than just a message.

Engulfing and entrancing, Chris goes from minimal instrumentation to using a whole host of instrumental layers – hence it should not be surprising that the soundscape is ultimately lush, expansive and diverse. On first listening, I was already tempted to say this is easily the best piece of work to come out this year by anyone. Period. But I’ve managed to contain myself…for now.

A sublime smorgasbord of instrumentation and voice, music can’t always be this good because we would have nothing by which to benchmark its ingenuity. Right from the opening, “The Inventor”, this album is simply breathtaking in its composition and emotive power. It is all at once ominous, precious, theatrical and densely intricate.

It traverses all the boulevards and alleys of sound, both barren and confluent. Haunting in both breadth and scope, it delivers the listener inexorably through its passageways but with a willingness that far exceeds its length. Chris Morrissey’s sonic itinerary covers all of the logistics, and you need only adjust the volume.

Morrissey really allows his band to shine through on “I Know You” in a way that’s rarely seen on solo albums. Of course, he is the center of the show, with his resonant voice and his dark lyrics. But, listening to his band mates cook on drums and guitar, is a real pleasure.  I haven’t been very impressed with much of what we call popular music in the new millennium.

Most of it sounds, overproduced, emotionally barren, broken in some fundamental way and, because of all that, rather pointless. When the needle drops on the poignant tracks “Peppermint Tea” and “White Sand”, you realize that Chris Morrissey is such an amazing remedy to that feeling.

Morrissey has a tremendously gifted ear for harmonic structure, and that gift is put to excellent use on this music. At the same time his approach to songwriting is open and abstract, as often he will take the songs on unusual excursions during their playing time.

From absolutely gorgeous and achingly beautiful harmonies and melodies, to dark and heavy sounds –  sometimes in the same songs, such as “Baby Blue” or “Guardian” –  to just plain amazing, and on and on. Chris Morrissey really puts so much care and effort into every aspect of this album and it really, really shows. From a half whispered vocal to a mighty soaring chord progression, “Laughing and Laughing” is a tour de force!

This will blow you away as it did me. Expect the unexpected, sit back, close your eyes and enjoy the ride. Chris Morrissey will be performing: Sunday, May 6th 2018 at 9pm at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 1.

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