Torbitt and I wanted to make it feel like you cracked open the ooze in my head,” Morris says, referring to her co-writer and producer Torbitt Schwartz AKA Little Shalimar (Run The Jewels). Morris is an accomplished visual artist and stop-motion animator, so it’s appropriate that I Am What I’m Waiting For takes a collagist approach, mischievously recombining all sorts of rock and roll ingredients — the sass and swagger of Ronnie Spector, the more acid-fried corners of the Nuggets compilations, post-modern interpolations of mid-century exotica music, the cracking snares and sugary urbanity of ESG — while offering moments of vulnerable insight from a life spent in pursuit of creativity.
Morris was a musically precocious child and, after playing in Florida bar bands, moved to New York to chase the dream. All the while, Morris pursued her music dreams. “It was pure, 100% DIY. I never took no for an answer. If I didn’t have the money, I figured out how to make it happen: Videos, artwork, whatever.” After the dissolution of her first band, she recorded 8-track demos and performed solo shows backed by cassette recordings of her own vocal harmonies.
Morris signed to Wax Poetics for the release of her “seductive, soulful” 2012 debut Banshee and 2013’s Mockingbird, self-released her 2016 EP Babble (reissued earlier this year), and signed to Karma Chief for 2022’s “beautifully sung” Nine Lives. She’s linked up with a murderer’s row of collaborators, including DJ Premier, MF Doom, Ghostface Killah, and David Sitek. Interview Magazine called her “a modern day Janis Joplin,” and NPR praised her “lush, moody mix of neo-soul.”
On I Am What I’m Waiting For, Morris was eager to break out of old habits: She started playing guitar again live, showcasing a distinct and stylish rhythmic signature. She pulled old songs out and reworked them. Less-than-perfect takes were tolerated. She put a moratorium on love songs. As she put it: “I needed to scare myself into growth.”
Luckily, the risk paid off. I Am What I’m Waiting For is not only a sophisticated and joyful sonic reinvention, but an unfiltered expression of Morris’s idiosyncratic worldview. The almost-title-track “What Are You Waiting For” encapsulates the album’s spirit: Stabs of guitar yield to sirens-and-bongo breakdowns as Morris champions realness and self-reliance. It hits like a conscious statement against algorithmic optimization. “When you introduce yourself to someone,” says Morris, “you can yada yada the broad strokes of your life. But it’s the textures and specific details in life, music or art that gives it meaning.” Fittingly, I Am What I’m Waiting For bravely luxuriates in the little details. It’s the rare record that doubles as self-portrait, unvarnished yet thrilling because of its imperfections.· 21+