It’s been over five years since My Morning Jacket have released an album. That album was The Waterfall, a solid set of pop and rock tunes that followed in the footsteps 2011s Circuital. Circuital seemed to be looking for a middle ground musically between the shoot-for-the-moon audacity of Evil Urges and the band’s earlier, more straightforward folks-y sound like At Dawn and It Still Moves. Gone were the silo recordings of yore, and in their place were sonically rich singer-songwriter fare.
At the time of The Waterfall‘s release lead singer/songwriter Jim James stated there was another album ready to go, a part II to The Waterfall. But with James busy releasing solo work and two of the band members acting as back up band for Strand Of Oaks’ Tim Showatler’s Eraserland album, that other album sat idly by.
Well My Morning Jacket’s The Waterfall II is here. Was it worth the 5-year wait? I think so. It’s a continuation of what the band was doing five years ago, not surprising as these songs are from the same recording span. They’re not reinventing themselves, but I don’t think they need to.
There was a five year period(from 2003 thru 2008) where I felt like My Morning Jacket were going to be the next great American rock and roll band. James was writing interesting songs, and he wasn’t afraid to let the band breathe in the studio and on the stage. Most people look at Evil Urges as their masterpiece. While it definitely won them new fans and ears, I think the dark horse in the My Morning Jacket canon will always be Z. From start to finish it was an album filled with darkness, but brought out of the shadows by incredible vocals and a band completely locked into each other. I don’t think My Morning Jacket are exploring much anymore. Much like their big brother Wilco, they’ve locked into a record cycle that is solid and reliable. But not exploratory or still searching to push their sound in new ways. Sometimes, though, all you need is a solid group of songs to keep you from losing your mind. That’s The Waterfall II.
“Spinning Wheels” is like turning on the radio back in 1972 and locking on the AM dial to something warm, comforting, and like a good friend for the drive. James makes no qualms about his love for early 70s AM fare(“Sec Walkin”, anyone?), and MMJ do it well. There’s enough interesting sonic touches here that remind you that you haven’t taken a time machine back to another decade, but this is classic MMJ doing classic 70s. “Climbing The Ladder” is a fun, bouncy pop track with country guitar touches and James turning in a solid lead vocal. “Run It” is a beautiful, dusty song, mixing country and soul giving us a touch of “Harper Valley PTA” and Leon Russel’s “Stranger In A Strange Land”.
“The First Time” is an absolutely gorgeous number; spacious, ethereal, and slightly psychedelic. Very much in the vein of Jim James’ solo records, but with the added heft of a solid crew like Blankenship, Hallahan, Koster, and Broemel backing him.
There’s not really a bad track here. It’s a solid 45 minutes of My Morning Jacket doing what they do best. They’re not stretching the creative muscles or anything, but sometimes you don’t need that. Sometimes you just need some songs to pull you out of the world for a bit. The Waterfall II does that just fine.
7.8 out of 10