Nearly two years ago to the day, Greta Morgan unveiled her solo debut under the moniker Springtime Carnivore. The album cover was simple. It was a black-and-white-photo of Morgan staring slightly upward while seated on the ground. A slight grin is on her innocent, which emitted a sense of innocence and warmth. Of a young woman introducing herself to the world and whose career was just blossoming.
Springtime Carnivore was a dazzling album. Filled with the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s, its fourteen songs ranged from classical pop to neo-soul to dream-pop to even disco. Although the album will be remembered for its diverse sounds, Morgan took us on an expedition of introspective journeys to breathtaking fantasies. Springtime Carnivore was as complete of a record one would find in 2014 and, consequently, made our 50 Favorite Albums of the Year.
Since then, Morgan has remained incredibly busy. She toured with her original outfit, The Hushed Sound, and teamed with La Sera‘s Katy Goodman on a punk-covers album, Take It, It’s Yours. Those experiences and the success of Springtime Carnivore have resulted in a more forward and present Morgan. Whereas there was a humility in her solo debut, everything about Morgan’s sophomore effort, Midnight Room, exudes confidence – from her commanding vocals to the album’s art work, which shows Morgan emerging from the glimmering light. The album also sees Morgan transform from songwriter to storyteller, telling tales of love, trust, isolation, and loneliness through various lenses.
The opening song, and the album’s title track, encapsulates this next phase of Springtime Carnivore – dramatic, thoughtful, expansive, and still gorgeous. “Midnight Room” feels like a love story set in the wild west that is unfolding within our ears. As the beautiful arrangements cascade from lush to heart-racing, Morgan sweeps us away with her dreamy vocals. Heart-racing in an exciting sort of way, “Raised By Wolves” reverberates with the fun, oft-kilter, cinematic-pop of The New Pornographers. Is it through the forest or inside Morgan’s mind that we are running to her?
A clever take on double jeopardy, “Double Infinity” comes right out of the ’80s, telling the tale of unrequited love. “If I gave you forever, what would you give to me?”, asks Morgan to her lover before leaving him. The stirring “Wires Crossing” could be “Double Infinity’s” sequel, as Morgan unsuccessfully tries to forget the one has left behind. The delicate arrangements and pacing plus Morgan’s mournful voice give the song a feeling of a lonely, midnight walk down dimly lit streets.
The loneliest of songs is the album’s emotional centerpiece, “Nude Polaroids”. The arrangements are slight, Morgan’s vocals are vulnerable, and the atmosphere is dense and tentative. The song captivates due to the story that is told – the end of a love affair that has a surprising twist. Morgan doesn’t lash out at her ex, but instead does the unthinkable in allowing him to keep something private. Maybe this is Morgan’s way of showing him what he’s missing, is a symbol of trust, or a shred of hope for reconciliation.
As great as her ballads are, Morgan’s upbeat numbers are stupendous. The whimsical story of “Face in the Moon” is an uplifting, euphoric number. But unlike the other songs, Morgan is singing to the stars, wondering out loud if other life exists. “Under the Spell” buzzes with a fantastic synth foundation and echoes the warm, swaying disco-pop of ABBA. As Morgan utters the words of the song’s title, you cannot but become enchanted by her mesmerizing vocals.
The album’s final two songs, though, is where Morgan beautifully weaves her spell. On the majestic “Bad Dream Baby”, Morgan’s vocals are vulnerable and emotional, as she sings about the painful experience of moving on. The song could be the ending to your favorite love story or coming-of-age movie, where there is always one person who is left behind.
The finale, “Rough Magic”, is absolutely crushing. Reminiscent of days with The Hushed Sound, Morgan moves to the piano and sings a ballad that will reach deep inside your soul and grab hold of your heart. It is a farewell of sorts to someone or to an experience. Maybe she’s waving goodbye to the woman who dressed as a beauty pageant in “Name On A Matchbook”. Possibly she is setting the woman who graced Springtime Carnivore in a safe place deep inside her heart. Whatever it may be, one thing has not changed over the years – Greta Morgan has dazzled us once again.
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