Dawn Chorus #1: Mark Morriss – Look Up

Dawn Chorus #1: Mark Morriss – Look Up

The first Dawn Chorus (Monday 23 September 2019) is given over to an album I’ve been listening to a lot recently in my role over at record label Reckless Yes – the brilliantly eclectic fourth solo album from The Bluetones’ frontman Mark Morriss, Look Up. 

Artist: Mark Morriss
Album: Look Up
Label: Reckless Yes
Year of release: 2019
Genre: Pop, Alt-pop 

Mark Morriss Look Up album coverToday is the first day of Autumn, a time for bringing in the harvest and sharing the fruits of what we’ve sown, a moment of balance before we begin the slide toward winter. Symbolically today, the 23 September, is a time for completing projects and expressing gratitude before we begin our toil again.

It is then a somewhat fitting moment to talk about Look Up, the fourth solo album from The Bluetones’ frontman Mark Morriss, an album which has been a long time coming to release.

If you’re at all familiar with this album you will probably already know it was originally recorded through a Pledge Music crowdfunder back in 2016, following on from previous albums for Acid Jazz A Flash of Darkness (2013), and The Taste of Mark Morriss (2015), and solo debut Memory Muscle (2008).

Well known as front man with indie band The Bluetones Morriss’ solo work has continued to show his prowess as a songwriter with a mastery of melodic hooks, and command of both pathos and wit lyrically. Look Up builds on that fine foundation but steps up significantly through a creative risk which more than pays off.

Underpinning what is a musically eclectic album is a feeling of macro-level estrangement, rising from the EU referendum results and the Populist bent to world politics. Morriss has always tended toward kitchen sink rather than global matters but where it surfaces more explicitly here its despatched with charm and style (to paraphrase an earlier refrain from his canon). Far from being a bleak album, Look Up is flooded with genres Morriss clearly finds comfort in himself, and blends them together to make something at once new and familiar melodically to juxtapose against that feeling of being a stranger in your own land.

Opener ‘Adventures’ wastes no time in bringing in the ’70s classic pop influences, with their warm tones and playful Falsetto, and acts perfectly to set the scene for an album which has a coherent thread despite the mix of styles on offer. And the mix is potent: from the folk tone poetry of live staple ‘Rimini’, to the tropical vibes of ‘Holiday of a Lifetime’, to the sci-fi-Country blend on offer in ‘Poor Me’. There’s a lot which on paper sounds like it shouldn’t work together – like too much has been thrown in – but the arrangement and considered elements mean nothing is lost in the diversity, everything sits together seamlessly despite the range covered.

As has come to be expected a couple of covers are included among the original pieces. An Anais Mitchell- and Martin Green-penned track ‘Roll Away’ and Brinkman song ‘All You Talk About’. Either could have come direct from Morriss as they reflect his songwriting style, click into place against their album-mates, and – perhaps benefitting from the originals not being too widely known – become very much his own.

As a solo performer these songs will sound different stripped back to be played acoustically but on record it is the detail which grabs you. The melodic trombone riff in ‘Holiday of a Lifetime’, the rock guitar solo of ‘Rimini’, the instrumental interlude of ‘Cowboy Juice’, and the tidal tempos of ‘Mother Moon’. It’s catchy enough to have you humming these tracks after first listen, detailed enough to have you return for many repeat listens and find delight in some new aspect which appears.

While the colour may be draining in daily life Morriss has constructed a vibrant album to sing-a-long to, to play loud, and which happens to establish him as a maturing songwriter from who we should be excited to hear more.

Dawn Chorus is a week day feature sharing an album to listen to on your morning commute, the school run, or at other times with the intention of surfacing classics you might not have given time to yet, indulging in old favourites, and helping you discover the best of new releases. If you’d like to suggest an album for the feature, or contribute a guest write up on an album you think more people should hear, get in touch

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Disclaimer: This feature is written by Sarah Lay who as well as being editor of Popoptica is co-founder at independent record label Reckless Yes, to which Mark Morriss is signed and through who Look Up is released. 

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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