The first time I listened to “Oh My God,” the opening number and title track off Kevin Morby’s new album, I was thousands of feet up in the sky. It gave me an overwhelming sense of weightlessness, but not like you might get from usual nerves about flying in an airplane for six hours over the North Atlantic Ocean. Instead it made me feel held, comforted, like I was exactly where I was meant to be in that magical place right above the clouds. Coincidentally, Morby wrote the song to “mimic how [he feels] on an airplane,” which explains the sensation and, ultimately, the tears it brought to my eyes. It builds to almost gospel heights from the stripped-down piano melody where it begins, and it is the perfect introduction to Morby’s fifth record.
Oh My God is a clear concept album — a double LP if you’re listening on vinyl — that explores Morby’s relationship with spirituality and religion. But in a more literal sense, it also finds him exploring new sonic territory. With rich saxophone, heavy piano, bits of harp, and even harmonies sung by a choir, Morby is stretching himself musically with Oh My God, and in the album’s first quarter especially, letting those inspired arrangements take the wheel. Those first four tracks — the beating heart “Nothing Sacred/All Things Wild,” the triumphant “Oh My God” and “No Halo,” and the euphoric “OMG Rock n Roll” — feel like different meditations on youth and coming into your own spirituality, whatever that means to you.
As the album progresses, so too does the density of Morby’s lyrics. “Seven Devils,” “Hail Mary,” “Piss River,” and “Savannah” find Morby back down to earth, poetically exploring life’s pastoral and tangible pleasures and disappointments. And later, Morby reaches a state of true acceptance and bliss with the feel-good rock and roll of “Congratulations” and the rootsy “Sing a Glad Song.”
The shared lyrical threads and wide-eyed perspective across Oh My God show us an artist fully realizing and carrying out a set intention. And the most beautiful part of all is that Morby seems to reach the conclusion that heaven doesn’t have to be some grand, mysterious thing. Heaven can also mean being present, feeling cozy and at peace in your own bed, surrounded by the ones you love.