The first thing you notice is his voice—a soulful falsetto, the third leg of a Justin Vernon/James Blake trinity that you never imagined existing. It echoes like a soft cry in a dark room: “I remember my first love, I remember my first love.”
In a perfect world, I would have heard about James Vincent McMurrow years ago. The Irish singer-songwriter has followed a similar creative trajectory to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. He put out his 2010 debut, a collection of electronic-tinged folk songs called Early In The Morning, to general acclaim and excitement, before ducking down and working on something…different. “Cavalier” is the first release from his new album Post-Tropical (due out January 14th), and it sounds exactly like that: a release. Forget folk music (If there’s an acoustic guitar here, I can’t hear it). Instead, McMurrow turns to a symphonic build of electronic horns and synths to sing melodic R&B that would make Sampha weep with joy.
I’m always a sucker for a song that knows how to build, and “Cavalier” has got that in spades. McMurrow slots perfectly into the minor-key aesthetic of someone like Drake while retaining the ragged emotion that defined Volcano Choir’s best songs this year, his words somehow becoming more cathartic each time the chorus comes back around. It swells your heart up until the tears start to show, then moves on so you can work on stitching them back together. This is all to say that there are a lot of intricate melodies in this song to keep you coming back on cold nights like tonight. But before the expert layering, before the pitch and verve of stuttering drum machines, before the stingingly beautiful harmonies that meander out of the track…before all of that, you notice his voice.
Play this song: While drinking a bottle of wine in your kitchen, with only Christmas lights on.