For a brief time in high school, My Morning Jacket were my favorite “modern band”. This is a very “me in high school” label considering that right now I couldn’t tell you who my favorite modern band is (uhh, The National maybe?), but it more just clarifies that I didn’t listen to all that much new music in high school, so I needed to differentiate between the old reliable rock behemoths I listened to and the few newer bands I liked. Also, it probably puts in context my reluctance to seek out newer bands when one of my favorites was a band like My Morning Jacket, who borrowed a lot from the past, while their masterwork 2005’s Z took a page from the one modern band from the 00’s that everyone could get behind, Radiohead.
But in the years since Z and it’s 2008 follow-up that now seems dumber and messier in retrospect, Evil Urges, I’ve kind of lost my enthusiasm for My Morning Jacket. 2011’s Circuital was particularly indicative of this, as I remember that album coming out, and I just had a completely passive and detached experience listening to that album. So what happened? Had this band strayed too far away from it’s Southern-rock-with-a-dash-of-alt roots? Or had I just become more and more disillusioned by this band’s resemblance to a hippy jam band than any other act that I was willing to give my time? Well whatever it was, I wasn’t sure whether to care about MMJ’s new album, The Waterfall, but I started to warm up to the idea after revisiting some of their earlier albums (still good!) and have even found myself enjoying this album, which does a bang up job of combining this band’s Kentucky-fried backbone with its more spaced-out eccentricities.
Jim James’s spiritual side seems to have become more and more pronounced in the last few years, as probably evidenced by that solo album that had God in the title that I never listened to (sorry, as I’ve said, I’ve kind of been out of the loop with the MMJ universe in the last few years). Anyways, that spiritual one-ness becomes apparent on The Waterfall right from the get-go, as its lead-off track implores us simply to “believe” as the band backs up this peaceful call-to-arms with a good deal of smoothed-over gusto. If anything, it’s the most cohesive-sounding My Morning Jacket album since It Still Moves, since the band chose one particular sound to go with for once, which is a pleasant mixture of prog-rock maximalism, soulful intimacy, and the occasional guitar freak-out. It’s the kind of sound that reminds me of this band’s willingness to sit outside of any and all categorization and just let their freak flags fly, and even has me thinking that I should perhaps make an attempt to see them live for the third time on whatever overblown tour they got coming up.
Favorite Tracks: “Believe (Nobody Knows)”, “Thin Line”, “Big Decisions”