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New telehealth counseling option set for fall
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Bri Hunter, Editor in Chief • May 14, 2024

The University is extending on-campus mental health services for the next academic year through a company called TimelyCare.  TimelyCare...

PHOTOS: Baseball sweeps Valpo in last home series
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The News Reviews: ‘Visitor’ by John Moreland

John Moreland released album Visitor on April 5.
John Moreland released album “Visitor” on April 5.

John Moreland, folk singer, released a surprise album on April 5. “Visitor” is a powerful folk-rock record and a return to form for the artist.

Moreland created the album during a period of detachment from the pressures of the music industry and social media.

“In 2023, during a year-long break from touring, in an attempt to regain my sanity, I stopped using a smartphone for six months and wrote this album,” he said. “I recorded it in my living room, with help from my wife, Pearl Rachinsky. I wanted to make a natural sounding folk-rock record. Simplicity and immediacy felt very important to the process.”

I imagine this simplicity is a relief to a portion of fans who were less than enthusiastic about the addition of elements of electronic music in Moreland’s two previous releases, “LP5” and “Birds in the Ceiling.” While I strive not to be the person shouting ‘Judas’ at Bob Dylan when it comes to an artist’s experimentation, I find the purity of a living room recording an ideal vehicle for Moreland. 

That purity is further complemented by the perspective Moreland gained from his self-imposed cell phone exile. It’s the kind of regression I think many of us envy, though inconvenience and/or addiction keeps us from ever following through. The clearheadedness I imagine he gained results in an album that is both deeply introspective and personal yet attuned to the state of the world and modern life.

“Lyrical themes include digital life vs. actual life, a bit of ‘What the hell is up with the world?,’ and a whole bunch of ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’” Moreland said.

It’s difficult to pick highlights from these 10 tracks, excluding two short instrumental pieces, “Sobo Interlude” and “Bixhoma Interlude.” The songwriting, instrumentation and vocal performances, all almost solely the work of Moreland, are of incredibly consistent quality throughout. 

One standout is the title track, “Visitor.” It deals most heavily with the theme of isolation that runs throughout these songs. Its lyrics, some of the best on the album, also deal with depression and Moreland’s view of his role as an artist.

“And I’ve been stoned and scared of my reflection

I can see your shifty smirk from the depths of my depression

But I will not be your puppet or your payment

Your easy entertainment, for I’ve made amends to me

I am a visitor

On this lonely earth, I am a visitor”

Silver Sliver” tackles the struggle to remain grounded in the real world as societal pressure to live your life online grows. Moreland relates this specifically to the need for a musician to have an online presence in the streaming age, but it resonates well beyond his own circumstances. As time progresses, it seems as though a majority of careers demand that you spend more and more time staring at a screen. This song will strike a chord with anyone who can feel the digital world closing in on them.

“Now there’s a world of beauty, there’s a world of [expletive]

There’s a world at the end of my fingertip

A digital balm for an analog bruise

Which world do I choose?”

If I’ve given you the impression that there are no feel-good songs on this album, I’ve done my job properly. Whether it be the state of politics in “One Man Holds the World Hostage” or more personal tragedy in “The More You Say, The Less It Means,” Moreland doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of life. As a sad folk music enthusiast, I wholeheartedly endorse his approach to songwriting, and this album is a fine example of it. 

“Visitor” is a deeply moving folk-rock record that ranks alongside Willi Carlisle’s “Critterland” as one of my favorite releases of 2024 so far.

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Ben Overby, Staff Writer

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