It’s really a wonder that Andrew Morgan’s album, Misadventures in Radiology, was ever released. Recorded in increments over the course of a year between Kansas, Oxford, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Morgan’s debut recording was a seemingly endless and laboring process, interrupted several times due to lack of funds, changing musicians and engineers and a tornado that nearly killed him. Morgan was determined to finish this record if it was the last thing he did. And if he hadn’t have survived that nasty twister, it very well could have been.
To hear Radiology, you wouldn’t think it was as fractured and as scattered as the recording process would suggest. All of this can, most likely, be attributed to a strong vision, as clearly Morgan is a skillful songwriter and an imaginative one at that. Every song on the album is a fanciful and elaborate pop symphony. A bulk of the album was recorded at New Monkey, Elliott Smith’s studio, and it’s likely that Smith’s influence played a big, albeit indirect, part in the shaping of the album. Morgan, at times, sings in a tone similar to the Portland-via-LA singer-songwriter’s. Furthermore, the layers of orchestral sound that blanket the album instantly recall Smith’s symphonic wonder on XO.
“Plight of an Exile” instantly gives you a sense of the big ideas that went into the album. The clean and shimmering guitar sounds like more than just a guitar, while Morgan’s voice, whether multi-tracked or just laden with effects, seems to be more dense and rich than one mere human’s voice could be. The piano on “Aligned on the Steps” is akin to Ed Harcourt’s red wine influenced ditties, while the title track has a memorable and solid melody, culminating in Morgan’s sweetly sincere proclamation, “I hope you dream in color tonight.”
At times, Morgan borders on the baroque, particularly with the array of instruments that were at his disposal during the recording process — cellos, harmoniums, violins, bells, harp and a recurring and eerie-sounding harpsichord. But on the Andrew Bird-like “Joann, You’ll Be Happy Soon,” Morgan takes a somewhat more stripped down approach, that is, until the piano and strings come in. Whatever the case, just about everything here is absolutely gorgeous, no matter how simple or complex.
Listening to Misadventures in Radiology, admittedly, is quite exhausting. It’s a lot to take in — all of the intricate melodies, layers of instruments and crisp, dense production. Morgan is clearly a songwriting mastermind, and spent an entire year of his life ensuring that this would be finished. We’re all the better off for it, as it’s a beautiful record. I just hope he was able to finally get some sleep after all that.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.