James Morrison is one of the most successful UK male solo artists of the last decade. He enjoyed a breakthrough with his number 1 debut album Undiscovered, which was certified 5x platinum. His 2008 follow-up Songs for You, Truths for Me spawned the monster smash Broken Strings with Nelly Furtado and hit 3x platinum sales. His last album was 2011’s The Awakening, which fell short of his previous albums’ sales but still managed to achieve platinum status. 4 years after that album, Morrison is back with new album Higher Than Here.
Fans of Morrison’s earlier work won’t be disappointed by Higher Than Here, as sonically it’s not altogether too far away from what he’s done before. Morrison’s soulful vocals take much of the spotlight and the majority of the record stays in the same soul-pop vein of previous releases. Album opener Demons is one of the strongest tracks on the set with an auto-tune vocal interjecting during gaps in Morrison’s soulful crooning. It boasts a big beat, an epic soundscape and a really raw, gritty vocal.
Over the course of the record it’s hard to find anything that matches the power of that song. The gentle soul of Stay Like This could have been included on any of the singer’s previous albums, the rhythmic beats of Reach Out are catchy injecting gospel into the mix, and I Need You Tonight is a soulful disco moment that is the closest Morrison gets to changing his signature sound.
The best moments on the record come when Morrison strips away the production and lets his voice shine. The bare Just Like a Child is one of the album’s most striking moments while Easy Love stretches the singer’s vocals in interesting and powerful ways. Another highlight comes on the punchy Right Here, which is one of the most positive songs on the record.
Higher Than Here is pretty much business as usual for Morrison. Given the huge sales he’s enjoyed with his previous releases that shouldn’t come as a surprise but we would have liked to see him challenge himself more musically. Higher Than Here is a solid effort but large parts of it are interchangeable with his other album releases. It should easily appeal to the masses and those who already love the singer but next time round we want to see Morrison get out of his comfort zone.