The Waterfall, the first album from My Morning Jacket in four years is a gorgeous slice of Americana. This release marks a prolific period for the indie rock stalwarts, who ended up with two albums worth of material on their hands and have another record at the ready, slated for a 2016 release.
Working in an expansive musical landscape that delivers both big and intimate moments, the arrangements here are well-constructed, often opening up to some great extended instrumental sections. But this is a band who are just as capable of restraint as they are prone to the big moments; things never get overblown or self-consciously drawn-out on this record, making it an engaging listen from start to finish. And while the listener may easily discern sounds from the past, with much of the record echoing early to mid-seventies rock, the retro is never forced or gratuitous.
The Waterfall is My Morning Jacket’s seventh album, and it demonstrates a self-assured band with a complete understanding of what they do well and an ability to execute this with precision (even when this means playing loose).
Like The Decemberists, whose January release, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, was an early musical highlight of the year, My Morning Jacket know their craft well, including how to shape a great song. Notably, the two bands share a co-producer in Tucker Martine on their most recent projects; both are fine American outfits, deserving of a little more attention on this side of the Pacific.
Opening with ‘Believe (Nobody Knows)’, the band sounds like a modern incarnation of The Who, with distorted guitars, keyboard swirls and Roger Daltrey style vocals from singer, Jim James.
‘Like a River’ is a beautiful track that starts softly with acoustic guitar and falsetto before building to a vocal crescendo that does, indeed, sound like the water in full flow. ‘Spring (Among The Living)’ is a great piece of song-crafting with nice touches of psychedelia over its pounding rhythms and resolving in some fantastic jamming with guitar and keyboard.
‘Topics (Erase Traces)’ has the structure of a Led Zeppelin epic, starting with gorgeous finger-picking and ending with searing guitars over a heavy rhythm. The LP then closes with ‘Only Memories Remain’, where like a John Lennon style ballad is mixed with the slow, sexy grooves of the seventies.
This is a lively, seductive album; full of warmth and colour, it’s the sound of a band playing to their strengths.
The Waterfall is out now from ATO / Capitol Records.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor