Semblance

MorMor

Semblance

MorMor’s 2018 breakout single “Heaven’s Only Wishful” and follow-up EP Some Place Else instantly established the Toronto artist (né Seth Nyquist) as the next great bedroom-pop auteur. However, when it came time to plot his first full-length record, he was ready to graduate to a different part of the house. After renting a place in Toronto’s tony High Park neighborhood, Nyquist and his engineer set up their gear in the living room. “I was kind of inspired by [Red Hot Chili Peppers’] Blood Sugar Sex Magik and the way they recorded that in a big mansion,” Nyquist tells Apple Music. Unfortunately, their grand plan took root in January 2020—and within a few weeks, Nyquist’s engineer would have to abandon ship to return to his family in New York once COVID travel restrictions kicked in. “So, I had to go back to how I started the first projects,” he explains, “where I had to do a lot of the engineering and recording myself and be at the computer a lot—which is something I don’t want to do anymore!” But while Nyquist was forced to scale back his process, the change had no downsizing effect on his musical ambitions. Semblance stretches MorMor’s insular pop aesthetic in myriad new directions, absorbing power-pop harmonies (“Seasons Change”), motorik post-punk (“Don’t Cry”), ’70s soul heartache (“Better at Letting Go”), and Princely funk (“Chasing Ghosts”). Nyquist admits the album’s more upbeat moments were informed by a desire to engage more directly with his growing live audience; production contributions from BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Charli XCX), recorded pre-pandemic, and Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence + the Machine) also speak to his rising clout. But even as it ventures musically outward, Semblance sees Nyquist burrowing further inward, as he threads the album’s stylistic patchwork with soul-searching ruminations on failing relationships, struggles with depression, and summoning the strength to face a new day. “The flow and the journey of an album should be the same as watching a film,” he says. “It takes you on a sonic journey.” Here’s his track-by-track guide for the trip. “Dawn” “As soon as I wrote the music, I knew it was going to be the opening song, just by the way that it set the tone. I named it ‘Dawn’ before writing all the lyrics—I just felt that’s where it took me visually. And I think in that early morning sensation within the music, the lyrics really came quickly and illustrated this reflective period that I often have in the morning, where thoughts become very non-convoluted and easily float to the top in this subconscious way, like they’re coming from dreams. And I think the music really allowed me to get there.” “Seasons Change” “It’s kind of paying homage to some of my previous work in a way. But within that homage, I still wanted to come up with something new to keep it exciting. I usually don’t stack my vocals in that way, but it came really naturally. It’s what was necessary for the song.” “Far Apart” “A lot of the music I was making at the very beginning of this process was really melancholic. I was going through a lot mentally, so I think it was very drab, and I felt like I wanted something to get me out of that mode. So, the rapping was just me experimenting and wanting to do something new. This also came out of touring and feeling like I wanted to play with new tempos. I felt like I needed a song that would provide a little bit more energy for the live show.” “Here It Goes Again” “For ‘Here It Goes Again,’ I spent a lot of time on each element of the process—like writing and creating the sounds and production elements. But even though I was really hyper-focused, I really was allowing myself to ride the wave of what was coming to my head [lyrically]. I felt this song was meant to be nostalgic but was also meant to just be enjoyed at face value in a different way than some of the other material on the record. My goal was to make an intentional but breezy song that could just be enjoyed when you’re out.” “Days End” “This was an exploration of texture, while playing with a little bit of form. It was kind of meant to also be like some sort of subconscious journey where I was reflecting on a relationship in a way that really was uninterrupted by going back and rewriting things. It was kind of meant to be a freestyle expression.” “Lifeless” “On this song, I’m dealing with depression. This was pre-pandemic. I felt like I needed to express myself in this way. I was toying with the idea of maybe not having it on the record, but it means a lot to me. It might not be one I’m playing live every night, but I felt if I omitted this, it wouldn’t really reveal who I am as a full, complete person. I want to make music for therapeutic reasons, but I also want to connect to other people and share feelings and thoughts, so this is one of the most important songs to me.” “Crawl” “This happened on a day when BJ [Burton] and I were meeting for the first time, and we were just shooting the shit. A lot of times when people want to meet, they want to get to know you over coffee or whatever. But whenever I’m gonna meet a producer for the first time, I’m always like, ‘Let’s just try something!’ I always just want to make music. This song came together really, really quickly—I just thought the world we created with all the textures was so immersive.” “Chasing Ghosts” “Overall, this album has less guitar than my previous stuff. I had bought a bunch of synths and was really just exploring that realm, and I’ve always loved building sounds from scratch. But this song was an opportunity to pick up the guitar and have another more uptempo song for the live show.” “Don’t Cry” “This was one the first songs I made after lockdown began. I had all this music that I felt was irrelevant to my current condition. I was kind of toying with this song, and my mom encouraged me actually to write it. Even though there are elements—like the drums—that work in the realm of stuff I’ve already done, there’s an energy there that I hadn’t really expressed through song, even though that energy very much lives within me. The song had taken a turn, and I had to be encouraged to lean into it. This is my pandemic song—it’s time-stamped to that moment.” “Better at Letting Go” “This was another case where I was playing around on the guitar and on the couch again, and my engineer mic’d me up there. I think, at that point, we just left the mics on the couch! I just played the progression, which is very, very simple in nature, and that melody just came out. I think I was just really feeling down. I was still in a relationship at the time, but I felt that, through the toxicity of it all, it was coming to an end. It’s like a premonition to an end.” “Quiet Heart” “As an artist, I have a desire to connect to people and to be understood, though I might have trouble sometimes doing so. I wanted people to be left with something that shows I do struggle, and it’s not always ‘up’ for me. I felt like the tone of the song was very direct and to the point. And that’s something that deeply matters to me when it comes to trying to understand who I am or wanting to connect with others who struggle as well.”

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