My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall

Posted May 15, 2015 by in Alternative



3.5/ 5


Genre: , , , ,
Producer: ,
Genre: Psychedelic rock, rock, alternative, indie rock
Producer: Jim James, Tucker Martine
Label: ATO
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
Time: 47:54
Release Date: 4 May 2015
Spin This: "Compound Fracture," "Only Memories Remain"


Opens with two excellent, made-for-rock radio tracks; ethereal sounds return.


Album doesn't flow and gel like Circuital or James' solo record.

Grab bag of diverse sounds, more euphoric ascensions highlight MMJ new record

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Grab bag of diverse sounds, more euphoric ascensions highlight MMJ new record

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James recently explored the fast lane of solo perusing on 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God, putting the band on a mini hiatus. On that record, James – also welding a sax like a Stax Records man – revealed an extension of MMJ’s handiwork but also contained tracks earmarked with an air of self-indulgence and symphonic soul – elements that may be too heady for his headlining rock band. Certainly multi-instrumentalist James is the star of the show and his castmates are his Supremes – bassist Tom Blakenship, drummer Patrick Hallahan, guitarist Carl Broemel and keyboardist Bo Koster. Not attempting to water down the band’s contributions, but witnessing the hair-eccentric James on stage is likened to a magician anointed by the gods. And like the narrative of mythological figures in rock’s past donning Jim as their first name (Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison), wherever Jim goes, the band goes.

With every passing album, My Morning Jacket has evolved into a better, stronger band showing a borderless archetype to their musical maneuvering. Originally the Louisville, Kentucky-based shouldered up their Southern rock prowess, but walking into 2005’s Z and their breathtaking 2011 disc Circuital exposed ethereal promise – as if the psychedelic mush of Beach Boys and sexy soul of Marvin Gaye had flooded into their garage rock jams. They wanted to be their own unique band, and one that wore fragments of mind-blowing versatility and space-like ascension planted in an easy-listening charm. Those who nibbled graciously on MMJ’s work will assert that the euphoric rock of My Morning Jacket should never be misplaced.

On the highly-anticipated new album The Waterfall, MMJ’s familiarity returns. “Believe (Nobody Knows),” dripping with Paul Simon quirks and a gospel-drenched sing-a-long chorus, struts with prog-rock fierceness, even if it sounds like a radio edit absent of the long-winded epic grandeur of previous album opening cuts. “Compound Fracture” also sounds very radio-friendly. It neatly rolls out its mix of Electric Light Orchestra-like rock and ‘80s synths dripping with Hall & Oates confection. As James’ love for soul endures, the mellowness of the song shifts into Curtis Mayfield machismo and cascading “woo-woo-woo” chants on its rhythmic Motown-chiseled chorus.  As the dust settles on the first two cuts, The Waterfall pours out a plethora of Lava-lamp dreamy harmonies on the next two offerings: “Like a River” and the soft rock-meets-Steely Dan exploration heard on “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall).”

As the album parades onward, there seems to be a little less cohesiveness than what some have envisioned for a new MMJ record. They explore way too many sounds and fail to write out a flowing motif of interconnected tapestry. “Get the Point” pulls out their folk card, while “Spring (Among the Living)” showcases aloofly psychedelic howls. “Tropics (Erase Traces)” explores the humble acoustic guitar strumming of West Coast rock akin to “Hotel California” before jumping into a land of beer-heavy jamming. That outer body experience highly associated with MMJ is still written in stone, and it bleeds even in the lyrics: “Out of body for the first time, in a long time/The right time, window to another world.” By the time the album fades out with the seven-minute long “Only Memories Remain,” a sense of balance returns to the fray. “Our earthly bodies will surely fall, but the love we share outlives us all,” James sings along the seaside of serenading soul and universal inspiration.

It’s been said that over twenty songs were crafted in the studio for The Waterfall sessions, and that the next batch will appear on their forthcoming record. This could have easily been the band’s The Wall, a mind-blowing double-LP exploding with adventure. Instead the band authorized to separate the volumes. Is the “best of the best” represented on The Waterfall or is it equally dispersed? Would the album have made more sense if constructed as one complete collection? Time will reveal the answers to those mysteries when the next MMJ episode drops. But what we do know is that the album isn’t exactly an artsy cantata like Circuital and that each track starts to feel disconnected with its surrounding neighbors. Some will argue that the band isn’t exactly reaching for innovation on this round, which is almost painful to suggest since it’s sill a good record. Although The Waterfall as a whole isn’t exactly disappointing, it feels a bit awkward to have to judge each song individually.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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