Assured yet eclectic return from Jim James & Co.
'The Waterfall'

In 2013, the Kentucky-based My Morning Jacket released their Grammy-nominated album, 'Circuital', and toured the US with Bob Dylan and Wilco. Following the tour they shifted their focus to recording, and the band took to the breath-taking location of Stinson Beach in Northern California, and created what would eventually become 'The Waterfall'.

Perched on the hilltop studio overlooking the vast sands, they claim the location informed the album on a spiritual, as well as a musical, level. Certainly, the wistful introspection as a result of beautiful rural surroundings has had an effect.

The album deals with starkly emotional situations such as failed relationships with a poignant, poetic beauty.  Thanks to slick production overseen by Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Modest Mouse, Neko Case), there's a gloriously detailed and powerful sound. Moreover, the music has stark contrasts that work well to portray the emotions of singer Jim James.

Title track 'In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)' opens with heart-warming '60s psychedelic pop before bursting into an emphatic Minus The Bear–esque overdrive section. Elsewhere, 'Spring (Among The Living)' takes a similar approach; beginning down-tempo, it reaches gritty solos and howls that evoke Iggy Pop by the end.

The album is another typially broad statement from My Morning Jacket. 'Get The Point' is a raw ensemble of acoustic guitar and vocals, while heartfelt album closer 'Only Memories Remain' is similarly mellow  - yet boasts intoxicating lead guitar that nods to David Gilmour. In contrast, lead single 'Big Decisions' is stadium rock through and through with its commanding vocals and huge kick drum.

In spite of this eclecticism, the album feels like a coherent sketch of Jim James' mind which - just like California's rugged northern coast - is a powerful and dreamy ride. Another Grammy nomination could well be on the cards.

7/10

Words: Cai Trefor

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