My Morning Jacket are revitalised with an album of exquisite Americana-infused indie-rock, and waging a gentle war on corrosive tech.
My Morning Jacket are a guitar band. This isn’t to discount the crucial input from Bo Koster, their master of mercurial keyboard sounds, but they’re a guitar band. Crucially, they’re a guitar band with two very fine and sonically innovative guitarists, a rock-solid rhythm section, and a simply outstanding singer and lyricist in Jim James. But first and foremost, they’re a very fine guitar band. And their latest self-titled album, is a very fine guitar album. Maybe not much else needs to be said.
On their Wikipedia page, under genre, My Morning Jacket are listed as: Indie rock, art rock, psychedelic rock, alternative country, Southern rock, jam band, and Americana. These same labels could apply to their new album and maybe that’s all that needs to be said about the album.
Over the last few years, My Morning Jacket were in a serious decline – not in the quality of their output or live shows which remained stellar, but just in how the band were functioning, how they were all just experiencing being in the band. My Morning Jacket are a band that are very much based around Jim James, his songwriting, and his creative drive and vision. As he became jaded with the grind of endless recording and touring, the band also began to react to that, and an indefinite hiatus or even the end of the band seemed on the cards. But thanks to the band playing four absolutely electric concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, they collectively realised that they were in danger of losing something very special, and from these inspirational nights, My Morning Jacket were reborn.
The self-titled album took a while to gestate but over a couple of multi-week sessions at 64Sound in Los Angeles, the album came to life. It was very much a closed shop: James produced and engineered the sessions and from the outset the intention was to keep the entire process exclusively within the band, with outsiders excluded. It seems to have worked. The album sounds like it has a cast-iron integrity. It sounds like an album where the participants have a real sense of ownership, and by locking out everyone else, it sounds like it has allowed the band to properly come together and to be inspired to do their best work.
The themes of the album come from Jim James and his increasing antipathy towards the pervasive and corrosive nature of technology and social media. It’s an impassioned plea to his audience to find the time and space to reconnect to the natural world and to reconnect to each other. The music also reflects that reconnection with traditional or, if you like, analogue sounds, setting them within a rich sonic landscape that draws on equally on sophisticated digital soundscapes, as much as on classic rock tones. Throughout the album Jim James’ remarkable voice restates his rediscovered drive, his renewed sense of purpose, his enthusiasm and energy for the reborn My Morning Jacket.
High spots on the album? Pretty much everything.