One of my favorite qualities about Jim James is that he’s unpredictable. One of my least favorite qualities about Jim James is that he’s… unpredictable. You’d never know if Jim was ready to drop the next Z or some outlandish display of spaced out ballads. The latter would better describe the appropriately titled “Regions of Light and Sound of God”, that’s not to say that “outlandish” and “weird” are necessarily bad things. Jim James or Yim Yames as he’s sometimes hilariously called is a versatile artist. His willingness to experiment with different sounds and styles in order to make them his own is one of his most appealing qualities. Not to mention his powerful Muppet Show-inspired voice can immediately make any project that much better.
At first listen Regions of Light and Sound of God is difficult to pinpoint. All the swirling sounds and tape effects, as if nothing can ever be recorded in a conventional way. Though you do get a sense that James is borrowing some inspiration from 70s R&B, most notably Bill Withers. James is a big fan of Withers and that couldn’t be more apparent then on a song like “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U)”. Additional tracks like “Know Til Know” and “Actress” also lay on the soulier-side of the spectrum. “Actress” is perhaps the closest James comes to replicating the sound of My Morning Jacket, though even that sound is getting harder to define as the years go by. Even with a throwback style of songwriting, there is nothing familiar about the ways the songs are recorded. James sounds like he recorded everything in a spaceship piloted by Jesus, at least that’s the impression I got. There’s a very meditative mood to Regions that is easy to get lost in.
“A New Life” is the most accessible track on the album and probably the best. It’s a song at James’ most intimate that builds and builds to a joyous outro, I love it. I didn’t love the album as much as I wanted to, but I appreciate that James challenges his listeners. He keeps us on our toes so that he can continue to open new musical doors. Regions of a Light and Sound and God can be a difficult journey, but it can be very rewarding with the right mindset.
Favorite Tracks: “Actress,” “A New Life,” “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U)”