We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
An orca and a nickel: Both played host to Travis Morrison’s disembodied consciousness on his 2004 solo album, Travistan. But kids could care less about killer whales and coinage—they want lyrics about human beings, and despite containing some often solid, if oddly childish, emo music, Travistan flopped harder than the Sacagawea dollar. Luckily, on All Y’All, Morrison is back in his own body. On the opening track, “I’m Not Supposed to Like You (But),” he returns to the forlorn romantic territory he plumbed to great effect in the Dismemberment Plan: “Such a scary thing to say, and yeah, it’s true/When we get together, I feel my life breaking in two,” he sings in a skittery voice. Similarly, the music is a throwback to the smooth, fusion-tinged final days of his former band. Rhodes pianos chime over clean guitars with a Remain in Lightnstyle rhythm that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Change. But All Y’All is more than just a rehash. His new backing band, the Hellfighters, is less frenetic than Morrison’s past collaborators, focusing on tight repetitive grooves rather than on the spazzy Brainiac riffs that colored Dismemberment Plan songs. The finest moments on All Y’All, like “Just Didn’t Turn Me On,” rely on an economy of vocal melody that was less common in Morrison’s motormouthed past. “We’ll try to will it back/We’ll see what we can do/We’ll make no promises, and we will leave no clues,” he sings during the song’s well-sculpted middle eight. Some things never change, though: Morrison has kept his tendency to be overly precious in his songwriting. At best, it’s endearing; at worst, it’s deeply cheeseball, and “Churchgoer” strays into the latter category. “I love a girl who loves you too/Not more and not less, just different,” he sings in a heartfelt moment that could have been cribbed from a WB drama. But that very-special-episode tone is still better than being sung to by a coin, and that persona is part of his allure. In the Dismemberment Plan, Morrison benefited from being the frontman of a rock band who both looked and wrote like an office temp. There wasn’t a lot of posturing, and All Y’All restores this sensibility. Fans can take comfort in the fact that Travis Morrison is back in khaki slacks and singing about NPR—he’s no longer a killer whale.