Morganway are back with a second album that is as eclectic as their first. Still refusing to be defined by genre, ‘Back to Zero’ sees them blend Folk, Rock, Americana and Indie Pop effortlessly across nine tracks. Their ability to fuse so many different elements is second to none. It has become their signature style. It makes their music both endearing and enchanting. It never fails to please.
Right from the opening bars of ‘Wait for Me’, the sound of Morganway rings out. Several instruments pile in almost immediately, to be joined by the distinct vocals of leading lady SJ Mortimer shortly after. The track is a great euphony of sound. Nicole Terry’s fiddle in particular cuts through the chorus beautifully, as it does on ‘Come on Over’. Here, it complements the sharpness of Mortimer’s vocals to help push through the strong, independent message of the song. Moody guitars transform into synth-laden strings which eventually soften into background acoustics on ‘World Stopped Running’. This indie-folk track is hugely uplifting, in the same way as ‘London Life’ and ‘I See People’ were on album one. The lightness of frontman Callum Morgan’s vocal contributes to this alternative to the more rock-ready tracks on which Mortimer so often serves to powerful effect. It brings a nice contrast which showcases the breadth of the band’s overall sound.
Their extensive range is not just found between songs but in them too. ‘Burn Every Page’, for example, contains both Celtic Folk and Soft Metal, undergirded by Blues and a touch of Rock. It could not be further from its neighbour on the album, ‘Sweetest Goodbye’, a piano-led love letter that presents a rare chance to hear SJ Mortimer perform in a stripped back setting. Co-writer and keyboard player Matt Brocklehurst cites Joni Mitchell as an influence here, a far cry from the Scouting for Girls resemblance that follows on ‘We Were Going Nowhere’. The Morgans’ indie-pop vocals inject some fun into this track, mixing well with the folk-filled fiddle to present an interesting generic hybrid that only Morganway could produce.
The title track is the culmination of this experimentation with sound: a celebratory track that is nevertheless reflective; two-toned in its flavour and coated in a magnificent musical icing. It offers in its lyrics the chance to reset, a theme which punctuates the album but is fully realised here. It is classic Morganway; the closest one can get to offering a definition of their music. Not that they seek to erase what’s gone before. Far from it. But it does make the case that, just as people were suitably raving about their self-titled debut, so they should praise this excellent follow-up. For it is not so much ‘Back to Zero’ as a seamless continuation of their previous catalogue of songs.
‘Back To Zero’ will be released on all major streaming platforms from 5th May 2023. You can pre-order the album on BandCamp here.
Originally written for and published on Belles & Gals on 2nd May 2023.
Featured Image (C) Morganway