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My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall II – “A best-of without being just that”

The Lousville collective return with their first album in five years.

“Makin’ time, to waste time, to feel time,” sings Jim James on Feel You – one of the many shining beacons on The Waterfall II. A companion piece to 2015’s The Waterfall.

Companion pieces are a strange a thing. It can be speculated that it’s a new euphemism for B-sides, therefore filler.

In My Morning Jacket‘s case, these tracks from The Waterfall II aren’t from the cutting floor. If anything, they are as strong as those from their predecessor.

Having fermented for five years, these songs render My Morning Jacket as a band reinvigorated. Not that they needed to, per se. This band has always thrown unplayable curve balls, testing the equilibrium of their fans and polarising the opinions of fringe listeners, alike.

Those groove-laden incursions knocking on the door of southern boogie (Z), the slightly left-of-centre soul-rock (Circuital), not to mentioned the odyssey that was Evil Urges – all different beasts in their own right but still very much My Morning Jacket. Same soup, different temperature.

Since The Waterfall, MMJ vocalist, Jim James, has made two brilliant solo albums (Eternally Even, especially), while guitarist Carl Broemel has also tried his hands at solo records along with producing several others.

“I’ve been wrong for so long/Risking my life for the sake of the song/Stayed committed to the Holy Ghost/Even though the devil is who I needed most,” sings James on the fantastic atmospheric keyboard-laden opening number, Spinning My Wheels. It’s James taking an inward, carefree attitude to song writing and The Waterfall II flourishes under this newly adopted mindset.

My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall II

Bo Koster‘s tumbling keyboards that end the psych-pop grandeur of Still Thinkin‘ could be mistaken as a riff, but no, it’s My Morning Jacket extending their scope to what is a ceaseless virtuoso.

Feel You is vintage MMJ, flanked with an alluring keyboard behind James‘ choir boy croons. Naturally, Tom Blankenship‘s bass lines and Broemel‘s sweet licks entwine around these elements.

Magic Bullet is a soul-rocker straight from the vaults of Circuital-era MMJ but with a new sprinkling of cosmic fairy dust, while Run It is arguably the most underrated cut within this collection of songs.

Basking in minimalism and lo-fi psych pop, Run It possesses raw keys and a riff that sounds like it was conceived on the back porch of a secluded cabin.

Welcome Home is a downright beautiful number, rich and balladeering with melodies that melt the heart. It’s Harrison homage at its finest and in 2020 no one does it better than Jim James.

Always a band for an epic closer, that run continues with The First Time. A sweeping offering that encapsulates My Morning Jacket‘s most potent weapons.

The Waterfall II is a best-of without being just that. An album leaning towards the classic rock hybrid with a heavy dose of cosmic blackouts and psych-pop spearheaded by James’ soul boy croons and atmospheric riff-a-rolla.

Many of these tracks could have been dotted throughout the band’s discography. It doesn’t feel slapdash, though. The Waterfall II is coherent, fresh, and portrays all the hallmarks of how listeners have come to fall in love with My Morning Jacket, further highlighting a heady collective of musicians who enjoy an unwavering chemistry and seldom fail in delivering the goods.

The Waterfall II is out now via ATO Records.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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