My Morning Jacket’s frontman Jim James is one of music’s greatest purveyors of the spiritual nature of rock and roll. His voice can feel like the comforting arms of an angel and My Morning Jacket shows have been described as something that transcends music into a place where only the divine exist. The band’s newest album, the excellent “The Waterfall,” is a spiritual journey that sees the band wrestle with life’s ailments and come out healed on the other side.
In the last couple years, the band, James in particular, has absorbed its share of bumps and bruises, from cancelled shows due to a debilitating injury suffered by James on stage, to the exhaustive nature of relentless touring behind the band’s last album “Circuital” and numerous side-projects from the band’s members, to personal relationship turmoil. Even during the recording of the album, at the beautiful and remote Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, California, James was suffering from severe back pains from a freak accident. “The Waterfall” is James’ answer for rising above the tribulations life doles out and existing in a place of rejuvenation.
James’ solution seems to lie at the heart of the shape-shifting psychedelia of “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall).” It opens with a brooding organ that morphs into a breezy country ride, before it reverts into a big cathartic groove, in which James’ sings, “Again I stopped the waterfall by simply thinking/ Again I stopped the waterfall before my breathing/ Again I stopped the waterfall by finally feeling/ Again I stopped the waterfall by just believing.” Life’s complications are persistent and one must learn to settle the turbulence before they are ready to move on. This growth is exemplified in the sprawling “Spring (Among the Living),” whose steady crescendoing beat is invigorated by massive guitar shrieks and electro-synth jabs. It moves forward with a virile purpose and is one of many tracks, whose massive sound should translate well in a live setting.
“Compound Fracture” seems to indicate that one of the ways to overcome the challenges in our lives is to cloak ourselves in love, as James sings, “There is life in love and sound/ Get as much as you can keep around/ Before they put you into the ground/ For who knows how long.” The silky cosmic fuzz of the song is infectious and is anchored by James’ angelic voice. In fact, this record is James’ finest vocal performance and he channels a current of love and mysticism into the songs that flow like an atmospheric river. His finest performance is the parting track, “Only Memories Remain,” whose celestial tone James carries into the ether, letting his memories float as they may with him. The song is obviously a breakup song, as is the acoustic “Get The Point,” and the two offer a glimpse into the emotional toll wilted love can have on the spirit.
But as the final notes of “Only Memories Remain” dissipate into the darkness, a sense of being healed is present. Life can be torturous, but if we can work through the pain and are able to find comfort and solace, that pain will exist only in our memories.
- My Morning Jacket
Released: May 5, 2015
Notable Tracks: “Compound Fracture,” “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall),” “Spring (Among the Living)”