My Morning Jacket: The Waterfall II (ATO) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, August 15th, 2020  

My Morning Jacket

The Waterfall II

ATO

Jul 30, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Given their constant touring schedule and the hellacious way they tore through it, it wasn’t all that surprising to hear My Morning Jacket were taking a break after more than two ceaseless decades. Lead singer Jim James went off to join the supergroup The New Basement Tapes and broke out on his own to explore his spiritual side. With the pandemic raging and isolation forced upon the country, James rediscovered some of the tracks recorded during the sessions for The Waterfall and decided the time had come for them to see the light of day.   

The band’s music has evolved over 20-plus years, putting a sheen on their early murky, bongwater sound and bringing James’ voice out of its shell, not to mention all of the flourishes that studio time and experience allow. The Waterfall II opens with the lovely, lilting “Spinning My Wheels,” which frontloads one of James’ lyrical preoccupations over the course of the complete Waterfall experience: that of not moving while time flows past, like standing in a stream, sometimes afraid of taking a step, others content to watch it all go by. If anything speaks to the need to take a break from touring, it’s James singing, “Hypnotized from endless traveling/Hypnotized from doing the same old thing.” He returns to this motif again and again, from “Climbing the Ladder” (“Can’t hold onto anything, really/If it’s already gone”) to “Feel You” (“Make time to waste time to feel time/Wash over you”) to the pessimistic “Wasted” (“You been wasting… too much time lately/You been gone”) to the optimistic “Welcome Home” (“Welcome home, welcome home/All this time we were waiting for ya”) and ending on the questing “The First Time” (“And I hope this feeling lasts”). 

Between the arc of the lyrical content and the band’s signature sound, The Waterfall II holds together nicely, and doesn’t feel at all like a B-sides collection or tracks that have been moldering on a shelf somewhere. Instead, there’s an almost novelistic structure supported by absolutely electric moments scattered throughout the 10 songs. “Still Thinkin” transitions, impossibly, from a Nilsson-esque, jaunty tune into a Floyd-type freak out. And the track doesn’t fall apart. It’s breathtaking. “Feel You” would be right at home on ’70s AM radio, a love song with bleary eyes and stoner musings backed by some of James’ finest guitar work. The stomping “Magic Bullet” finds James in a rotting world, asking for help. The frustration of “Wasted” boils over, shoves aside the beautiful keys and melody for a soaring guitar solo backed by horns and a chugging rhythm section that sounds for all the world like James and company seizing the day, reminding us, and maybe themselves, that they can still absolutely rock with a capital R, breaking through the smoke machine haze, leaving concert goers slackjawed, ears ringing, bodies tingling. Time, in that moment, slips away, not because of some lack, but for all of the immediacy, and becomes irrelevant. (www.mymorningjacket.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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