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I heard the new My Morning Jacket album and it’s amazing

MMJ3By Pete Mauch //

On the eve of April Fools’ day, Jim James and Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket invited about 50 people to a listening party of their new album, The Waterfall. Sonos Studio in Los Angeles began to fill up with everyone from Hollywood executives, interns, photographers and just a few die-hard fans like myself who won the My Morning Jacket Roll Call contest.

Huge projectors throughout the room displayed the album’s cover of psychedelic waterfalls amongst bean bags, cushions and fancy couches, adding to the overall chill atmosphere of the evening — not to mention the free beer.

Jim James arrived, explaining that he first fell in love with waterfalls in Portland, Ore., especially Bridal Veil Falls. My Morning Jacket plans on painting murals all across America using the album cover, the first to be adorned in Venice Beach, Calif. For you Angelenos, it’s on Lincoln Blvd. and Vernon Ave.

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1.”Believe (Nobody Knows)”
The initial track could have been an extension of the recent Jim James solo LP, Regions of Light and Sound of God. We find out later this was the last track he wrote for the album, and James feels it gave the whole album credibility and cohesiveness. The lyrics are uplifting, especially the prose of “Roll the dice, sail the ship, and all doors will open,” which to me means take the chance and you will be rewarded.

2.”Compound Fracture”
This is a bass-heavy, fast-rocking tune that jumps right out of the gate and doesn’t let up. This song is made for the live setting, and I’m sure many people will compare it to the style Jacket uses on Evil Urges. Koster really stands out on this track, especially towards the end as he wails on his keyboard while James belts out “how long till the mix runs dry” or something of the sort. This one’s a keeper.

3.”Like a River”
The album was mostly recorded in Stinson Beach, Calif., and Koster was very quick to point out that “Like a River” is the song that captures the time they spent there best. It’s a slow “streaming” folk song that makes us recall the At Dawn era of My Morning Jacket, which is never a bad thing. In fact, it’s an amazing thing. James flexes his vocals on this one, which reminds you how a voice can be a damn great instrument.

4.”In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”
The title track might have the best section in the whole album during the breakdown. The song starts off slowly, then builds and builds until it climaxes into pure bliss. I can’t wait for die-hard Jacket fans to hear this one. James explains The Waterfall is a metaphor for people who have so much shit on their plate that they wish they could just stop time and slow it down. He goes on to explain he’s been infatuated with wanting to stop the flow of a waterfall just to watch it stand still. And he wishes humans can do this with their own hectic lives. The chorus is a beautifully uplifting lyric that reads, “I stop the waterfall by finally feeling / I stop the waterfall by just believing / I gotta stop the waterfall.” 

5.”Get the Point”
“Get the Point” is the breakup song on the album, and it’s a fine one at that. James very openly states, “The feeling is gone, but I wish you all the love in the world.” He doesn’t love this gal anymore, but he still wishes her well. I think we can all relate to that. After this song, James explained that all the songs on this album are live takes, with overdubs added after the fact.

6.”Spring (Among the Living)”
On the sixth track and second single, James states that he’s ready for the change of season and that he’s “done hibernating.” Patrick Hallahan leads the charge with a strong drumbeat that carries the song forward until it reaches a magnificent climax that once again showcases Koster’s sick keyboard playing and Yim Yames’ always amazing vocals. Listen here:

7.”Thin Line”
“Thin Line” is the oldest cut that MMJ decided to bring to the table. The story goes that Tom Blankenship was handed a very short demo by James around 2001 and remembered that it would fit perfectly into the song they were working on.The result is a pure rocker with wailing guitars by Carl Broemel and James that leads toward a seriously amazing ending that has James screaming “between love and a waste of time.” That seems like quite the thin line to me.

8.”Big Decisions”
“Big Decisions” is the song that all “Jacketeers” already know, as the crowd present in LA got a little more into the experience. James said this song is about wanting to make decisions for your friends. Everyone has a friend who complains that they hate their job or they hate where they live, and this song is about wanting to be able to just go ahead make that decision for them. Get a taste here:

9.”Tropics (Erase Traces)”
The penultimate song starts with a ripping guitar solo, then mellows out as James starts to sing, “first time in a long time.” This song could very well be my personal favorite after one listen. The ending is beautiful chaos full of fuzzy guitars, loud keyboards and serious drumming that could please any rocker.

10.”Only Memories Remain”
“Only Memories” brings the album together with another Stinson Beach-like vibe. It’s a slow chiller that creeps up on you, especially the poignant lyrics “names of places have all changed, but the identity has stayed the same.” The slow song showcases some serious slinky guitar work by both James and Broemel.

After the album ended, James and Koster came out and did a full Q&A, which I got to be a part of. I told them how I felt the album reflects on days of old jacket like At Dawn and Tennesseee Fire and if this were a conscious effort to bring back the folky vibe as opposed to the avant-garde Circuital style.

Yim Yames answered with a simple “YES!” and then elaborated how he never goes back and is always pushing forward, but that it’s difficult to stay away from the basic guitar. After the interview disbanded, James and Koster hung out and mingled with the crowd and was gracious enough to sign my poster that I had brought and even took a picture. They stayed till everyone got to meet them. Awesome time with an amazing band.

The Waterfall will be released May 4th via ATO/Capitol Records. Pre-order it here, and check out My Morning Jacket’s tour dates here.

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Comments

  1. Laurie says:

    I’m currently turned into the live listening party and thus far, your descriptions of the songs are spot on. great write up! I’m so jealous you got to be there, but seeing that you truly appreciated every second of the experience makes me so happy you were there!

  2. I found a site streaming it and you’re right. Its great all the way through. It might even be their best album. There, I said it.. I’ve listened to it 7 times in the past two days. Its a complete album.

  3. Great read! Stoked for the album

  4. Great info! Thanks! A couple of things, though:

    The falls on the cover are actually Vernal Falls at Yosemite.

    Also: “if this was a conscience effort” should read “if this were a conscious effort”

    And: “he never tries goes back” should read “he never goes back”

    Cheers!

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