Kevin Morby Credit: Adarsha Benjamin

Kevin Morby opens his new album with “Come to Me Now,” an oozing ballad that accompanies his pinched singing with an old pump organ and a sparse, shuffling beat. He told NPR Music that it’s one of several tunes on City Music (Dead Oceans) told from the perspective of a reclusive elderly woman named Mabel who hides from the sun—and, by extension, from life. He rejects that spirit repeatedly here with songs that celebrate the energy and variety of city living, and he’s admitted channeling influences such as Patti Smith and Lou Reed—his drawl has a marked Reed influence, and the guitars that he and Meg Duffy play cleave to the strum-heavy sound of the Velvet Underground. The brief, chugging “1234,” meanwhile, evokes another side of that almost mythical old New York, saluting the Ramones and nodding to poet and musician Jim Carroll. Meg Baird (Heron Oblivion) makes a cameo, reading a text by Flannery O’Connor that describes a child encountering city lights for the first time, and on the title track Morby extends that sense of wonder with a mantralike incantation: “Oh, that city music / Oh, that city sound.” His lyrics aren’t at the level of his melodies—it still feels like he’s playing at songwriting rather than actually doing it—but he’s growing by leaps and bounds. This record has given me enough pleasure this summer that I won’t complain any further.   v