Oklahoma native John Moreland is back with his eighth studio album, LP5. It’s an interesting name for an artist’s eighth album, but don’t get it wrong, Moreland comes hitting heavy (soft?) with his beautiful and classic acoustic guitar melodies, something he has been renowned for throughout the years. And while LP5 is far from his fifth LP, it may very well be the most soulful and inspired release he’s had through his career, and the three-year wait since Big Bad Luv has been sure to keep fans guessing where the sound will go.
Moreland’s last LP, Big Bad Luv featured more electric elements and bombastic sounds. Big Bad Luv was not one of the brighter points in Moreland’s long career, but LP5 certainly does make up for that. Opening the album is “Harder Dreams,” featuring an acoustic guitar that has one of the best tones heard on a folk-country record. It’s where Moreland shines the brightest. His folk influence. Most tracks on this LP have a folk influence, but Moreland takes it into different directions. Adding electronic elements and programmed drums into his mix, something that has hardly been seen before in Moreland’s mixes.
The electronic element and experimentation Moreland is going with on this album is evident on a few tracks. Namely, “For Ichiro,” coming in as the second shortest track on the album is a beautiful acoustic guitar-driven beat with electronic percussion, synths stabs, and a minuscule piano melody playing in the background. Another track, “When My Fever Breaks,” features electronic percussion that almost “pops” as the sound.
However, while the electronic experimentation enhances these tracks immensely, tracks two and three, “A Thought is Just a Passing Train” and “East October” feature electric guitars in solo-like situations playing some amazing, funky tunes. There is a ’70s funk-inspired guitar riff on both of these songs. And not only does it not clash with the other instruments, but it also brings the songs to a new level. Because of this, “A Thought….” is easily the highlight of this album.
Moreland’s instrumentation isn’t the only thing he does supremely well. His lyrics and vocal melodies are often introspective, thought-provoking and moving. He sings with soul and spirit that most folk artists couldn’t even dream to match.
The only downsides to this album are some tracks seem to sort of meander along, and the middle few songs tend to have repetitive qualities. The last track “Let Me Be Understood” stands out as one that probably shouldn’t have made the cut here. While each song displays an element of experimentation, this closing track feels the most “traditional” of the lot. Featuring an acoustic guitar and Moreland’s voice, the song has very limited percussion which only sounds like the tapping of a foot. This wouldn’t be all that bad, but the inclusion of a harmonica makes this song a bit annoying to listen to. It’s time that folk, country, and Americana artists stop using harmonica in their songs, as it shows no progression in the sounds of these artists, feels too gimmicky and reminds listeners too much of “bayou” music.
Aside from these, Moreland really shows out in this album. The songs all have a layer of soul and heart to them and seem to come from a place of love, all qualities that modern country is starving for. In the end, LP5 is a beautiful, pseudo-folk-Americana, alternative country record that casual listeners and hardcore country fans can find something to love within its 41-minute runtime.