Maren Morris has returned with her third studio album Humble Quest, and it’s quite the collection of conversational melodies! Though a prolific country artist, she’s known for taking inspiration from a variety of different genres, such as pop, rock, and occasionally R&B. This album leans slightly into the country-pop side of things, which is just one of her areas of expertise.
Setting the tone with a traditional country flow and her unique vocal flair, the lead single “Circles Around This Town” is a promising introduction. She offers insight into her bright-eyed and bushy-tailed beginnings as an artist, along with how looking for inspiration in every crevice of her Nashville home actually paid off. Referencing her breakout hits as “the one about a car and the one about a church” sums up the general premise of this album: navigating the beauty in simplicity.
Judging from her more notable hits — such as her 2018 collaboration with Zedd and Grey on “The Middle,” or the platinum-certified “The Bones” on her previous album GIRL — Morris is well-known for her infectious melodies. Thankfully, that pattern continues! The instrumentals used throughout this album are cozy and enticing, even at its most impassioned.
On the rock influenced “Nervous,” vigorous drums and lively electric guitars will make listeners want to dance in unison. It’s the type of song that gets even better as it progresses, and the grit in her voice balances out its fluid intensity. A track that I predict will become a fan favorite is “Good Friends.” It’s a lovely anthem about an impenetrable friendship: “Bridges are burnin’ all over, but not on our street.” She rides the bright drums and jovial piano chords like a gentle wave; it’s hard to resist swaying. But aside from her amazing melodies, Humble Quest showcases an improved level of lyrical prowess to match.
In “I Can’t Love You Anymore” her exasperated vocal tone adds character to what could’ve been a bland declaration of infatuation. She sounds almost annoyed to be so in love with her partner, singing “Bring me coffee every mornin’ / You’re fun even when you’re boring.” Charmed by gracious acts that some may deem insignificant, her ability to find magic in every aspect of life is about as “humble” as it gets.
The second single, “Background Music” is a gorgeous ode to the universe’s unpredictability. Instead of relentlessly searching for meaning, she accepts that maybe there isn’t one (and that’s okay). “We call it forever but we know that there’s an end to it” — her voice hugs the melody as the lyrics prompt listeners to think. Is knowing that nothing is permanent bittersweet or just the sweetness of reality?
Speaking of slow jams, the ballads on this album are exemplary. In fact, one could argue that they’re the highlights! “The Furthest Thing” is a pulsating, piano-driven ballad about the tenderness of a long distance relationship. Stripped down harmonies adorn soft guitar strings. Meanwhile, she’s able to say a lot in just a few words: “Cause we’re the furthest thing / But damn, do we still fit so perfectly.” The bridge is so beautiful, you can imagine a gleeful couple dancing in a dimly-lit hotel room. The more somber lullabies like “Hummingbird” (“You come and go like a whisper”) are surprisingly hopeful in their approach. Grief is a very particular kind of pain that can be hard to express in words, but Morris does it well. Even the grim closing track, “What Would This World Do?” feels more grateful than it does miserable.
From divine relationships to existential reflection, Humble Quest is a highly satisfying body of work that shows us how to appreciate the little things in life. With eleven thoughtfully cohesive tracks, Maren Morris has yet to disappoint. They are tastefully written, melodically gripping, and certainly a step-up in comparison to her prior works of art.