My Morning Jacket’s “The Waterfall” One of 2015’s Best

25 Nov

Pitchfork has called My Morning Jacket “one of the most likable major American rock bands of the 21st century.” The five-piece band led by vocalist/guitarist, Jim James, released its debut album, Tennessee Fire, in 1999. That was a collection of mostly Americana tunes — sounding like early Neil Young or similar artists. Since that time, the band has morphed to embrace a variety of genres including Southern rock, psych-rock, alt-rock, and more.

Earlier this year, My Morning Jacket released its 7th album, The Waterfall. The 14 songs on this album vary from acoustic folk, folk-rock and synth-infused 80s pop-rock to prog- and arena-rock. A number of the songs even pay homage to R&B and soul grooves from the 1970s. It makes for a diverse and very enjoyable hour of listening.

The album opens with an orchestral-rock epic called “Believe (Nobody Knows).” The song builds into a powerful, ear-catching anthem with edgy guitar riffs that should make it a great opener for upcoming live shows.

The next track, “Compound Fracture,” is toe-tapping, 1980s-flavored pop-rock — which features the best falsetto lead and backing vocals since the Bee Gees.

The title cut is track 4, “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall).” This song has more of a prog-rock feeling, with a little glimmering of Jefferson Starships’ “Miracles” mixed in. There are many dynamic shifts and big guitar solos in the lead breaks.

Track 6 is “Spring (Among the Living).” (And yes, many of the song titles on this album seem to use parentheses.) This is another prog-rock epic with a pounding beat, guitars and vocals that are almost screamed in places.

The first single the band released from The Waterfall was “Big Decisions.” It’s rock on an arena scale — with piano, synths, fuzzed guitars, big drums, and just a hint of pedal steel guitar. Definitely one of the best songs in the set.

Speaking of set, The Waterfall is a large collection, with 15 tracks — although one is blank — for 14 songs total. This includes alternate versions “Compound Fracture’ and “Only Memories Remain.” So, as I said above, there are a lot of good choices and I’m certain you’ll find something you like.

It should also be noted that the album was recorded here in Northern California. And if you buy a copy, you’ll see that the posterized waterfall image on the cover was taken either in Yosemite or somewhere in California’s Sierras.

KZSU is a little late in adding The Waterfall, which was released by My Morning Jacket in the spring. But this is simply too good to not feature on my show and in my blog.

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