ALBUM REVIEW: guccihighwaters – Joke’s On You

Release Date: January 22nd 2021
Label: Epitaph Records


Anyone familiar with the work of Irish-American New York native Morgan Murphy, better known as guccihighwaters, knows that the road to ‘Joke’s On You’ has been an earnest, underdog’s journey.

After initially gaining traction with instrumental production work under the anti-moniker notmorgan, the decision to put voice to the ethereal, dream-like beats begat an unlikely underground star in the making.

Joining the impressive, expanding roster of emo-trap artists that Epitaph Records now bolsters, including Lil Lotus, Smrtdeath, and most recently GothBoiClique co-founder, Cold Hart, has now offered Morgan the platform to fully realise his creative endeavours to an originally unprecedented degree.

The resulting debut full-length is without question the most gentle and simultaneously dark emo-trap release the label has pushed thus far.

“Sometimes I like to feel blue”, Morgan admits on the rhythmic yet disconnected ‘catch-22’, while standout single ‘straight jacket’ hits deep with the fragile yet pissed off refrain of “I’m in a straight jacket, you just think it’s fashion”. Lyrically, this is quite a desolate affair, delving into the loneliness of success and the desire to mend broken fences and patch up damaged relationships. Even the rare semblance of bravado that the genre can often be rife with is delivered with little to no enthusiasm and almost serves as a rebuking of these normative successes, as without offering fulfilment, what’s really the point?

Production for the most part is stark and minimal, built from sparse 808s, hi-hats, and nuanced use of piano, very much in the same vein of homegrown talent Sullii‘s instrumental work. The similarities are no surprise when considering the two artists’ affiliation, fondness for one another’s work, and the fact that both recently toured Europe together in support of nothing,nowhere., who features on the melancholic ‘rock bottom’.

Elsewhere, there’s the truly heartfelt, exceptional powfu feature on standout cut, ‘hold somebody’, while the awkward Convolk appearance on the remix of last year’s single, ‘highschool’, seems utterly redundant.

Cuts like ‘expectations’ do their best to switch up the pace and offer some sonic variety when things may teeter on sounding a little one-note, but closer ‘rope’ is testament to how simple yet emotionally effective Morgan can be when the ballad-trap production is on point.

With reserved delivery, lyrical honesty, and a strong sense of character and self, guccihighwaters has definitely succeeded in his goal “to make it sound like me”.