Sequoyah Murray was born to make uncategorizable pop | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Sequoyah Murray was born to make uncategorizable pop 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge Sequoyah Murray

Sequoyah Murray

Amber Felix

Twenty-two-year-old Atlanta singer and multi-instrumentalist Sequoyah Murray grew up in a musical family, and you can tell. He makes music the way a dolphin swims—effortlessly, playfully, and with supreme confidence. Murray’s remarkable debut full-length, Before You Begin (Thrill Jockey), recalls Prince not so much in its approach or themes as in its ambitiously openhearted eclecticism. The short opening track, “Here We Go,” suggests a deeper-voiced Marvin Gaye running jazzy phrases beside an opera singer while blips of electroacoustic noise wander through the background. “I Wonder” is based on a recording of Murray’s sister experimenting with plainchant, which he expands into ravishing multitrack perfection a la contemporaries such as Moses Sumney. “Penalties of Love” couldn’t be a more perfect pop song: Murray slides between a pure falsetto and a warm, suggestive baritone, while his mother provides background vocals and his father, percussionist Kenito Murray, contributes brilliantly unpredictable polyrhythms. “Blue Jays” opens like a distorted lieder, with strings and keyboard stabs imitating each other in turn, and then turns into a techno dance rave-up around the halfway mark. Though every song swoops in from left field, they all fit gently into a single seamless, improvisatory vision. Most artists go entire careers without ever coming up with an album as full of love and genius as Murray’s first. His family has given him a gift, and he’s passed it along to the rest of us.   v

You Make Things Happen

Every dollar you give helps fund the experienced, diverse journalists and editors producing the Reader . Because the media landscape has changed, your support makes everything we do possible. Please give what you can to help keep journalism independent and thriving in Chicago. The Reader: We speak Chicago to Chicagoans.

Choose your monthly contribution level:

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 
 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Noah Berlatsky

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
The Witch Project Den Theatre
February 16
October 25

Popular Stories