My Morning Jacket's new album The Waterfall makes me feel weightless... like I'm twenty meters underwater in a wet suit with a breathing tank on my back. The world transforms into a place that's as alien as outer space. I find myself at the mercy of something far greater than myself, on the edge of the unknown, and yet so totally within myself. My Morning Jacket is one of the most exciting rock bands touring today. Despite having toured with the likes of Bob Dylan and Wilco, they're still somewhat on the fringe. What they're putting out is experimental; it's dissonant; it's abstract; it reaches out into the dark sprawl. The Louisville, Kentucky natives' seventh album, The Waterfall out on ATO Records, is no exception. More digitally engineered than previous records, it treads in the aural mist surrounding classic guitar rock.
More so than on past records, the experimentation that birthed The Waterfall was put together like a sonic collage... layered like paint, more impressionistic than their previous album Circuital. In a recent interview, lead singer/songwriter and guitarist, Jim James [Ed. note: He'll always be Yim Yames to me.] said, "That's what's cool about the digital realm; it opens up all these kinds of happy accidents that you might not have if you were only doing them live."
I'm not sure if "Spring (Among The Living)" was accidental, but I'm sure happy it happened. The song is like an epic poem dating back to Ancient Greece. The landscape is a surreal fog of haunting beauty through which we find our way, we find an anchor in the drums, and in the space between the layers, that are so delicately placed and all the while exploding like supernovas.
The opening song "Believe (Nobody Knows)" is the kind of song destined to be their opening set in an outdoor arena on a mountaintop. Jim Jones sings "believe" like a mantra over anthemic guitar riffs reminiscent of 70's rock and roll. Then there's the more lo-fi, synth song, "Like A River" which makes me want to lie in grass and float down stream, watching the patterns that form as the sunlight hits my closed eyelids.
James has said the title of the album "is a metaphor for how life is constantly beating you down, and you really have to take time to stop it and get through." It's clear in the lyrics of "Get To The Point," a wistful song with strong Southern Americana undertones, over which James sings with biting lamentation, or resignation, "I hope you get the point/I think our love is done."
The Waterfall is a great, bold collection of music. Each piece is interesting unto itself, strange but alluring. I find myself in awe, marveling at the visualizer videos. As a whole too, this project dives into the vastness of pure potential, without straying too far from the sensibilities that have tied these musicians to one another since this project began in the late nineties.