Kendra Morris is a Florida-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-disciplinary artist and newest JOVM mainstay. Now, as you might recall, as a singer/songwriter and musician, Morris can trace the origins of her music career to discovering the joys of multi-tracking and harmonizing with herself on a karaoke machine in the closet of her childhood home.
Morris then went on to play in cover bands in her home state before relocating to New York with her band, which played her original material. Her first band split up and she dealt with the aftermath by writing material alone on an 8-track in her closet. Sometime after, she met longtime collaborator and producer Jeremy Page and signed to Wax Poetics, who released her full-length debut, 2012’s Banshee.
Morris self-released her sophomore effort 2016’s Babble. Then she went on to collaborate with the likes of DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, MF DOOM, Czarface, Ghostface Killah, Dennis Coffey and Dave Sitek among others. And while being a grizzled, New York scene vet, Morris’ work generally embodies a broader sense of American culture, drawing from a wide array of influences across music and film dating back to the mid 20th Century.
The Florida-born, New York-based artist’s long-awaited sophomore album Nine Lives was released last week through Karma Chief Records. While being her first full-length album in a decade, the album represents a major turning point in her life both professional and personally: The album for her heralds the beginning of a new chapter; an evolution to the next level of adulthood; and the first on her new label. The album’s material encapsulates moments from what could easily be nine lifetimes lived over a chronological time period — or nine lives lived simultaneously in parallel and convergent realities in the multiverse.
In the lead up to the album’s release last week, I managed to write about two of its singles:
- “Penny Pincher,” a slow-burning ballad about reaching the end of the road in a relationship, fueled by regret, heartache, acceptance and steely determination to go forward with your life.
- “Nine Lives” is a strutting, hook-driven bit of soul pop jam centered around Morris’ sultry vocals, stuttering boom bap beats, squiggling guitar, and glistening Rhodes arpeggios that sounds as though it could have been released between 1992-1996 or so.
The album’s latest single “Circle Eights” is a slow-burning song centered around twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, a steady rhythm and Morris’ soulful vocals full of a deeply aching yearning. “Circle Eights is about the feeling of being outside of yourself and feeling kind of alone and awkward even when you’re surrounded by your friends,” the New York-based JOVM mainstay explains. “I remember hanging out at a rooftop party in Brooklyn one summer night and looking around at all the people I was with plus the groups of people I didn’t know and just lifting my glass and laughing out loud and yet feeling like I wasn’t really there. Like I was just watching a movie and I was thinking.. Where do I fit in all this right now?
Directed by Morris, the accompanying video for “Circle Eights” sees the JOVM mainstay employing stop motion animation and live action as it follows the secret adventures of an old toy through Morris’ apartment. At points, this beloved toy seems to be watching a life as though they’re a passive observer “I made the accompanying video using what I had on hand and shot using stop motion animation combined with live action around my apartment while I had covid,” she explains. “I love a good challenge and believe that with a good idea you can make anything exciting.. and so began my covid adventure.”