My Morning Jacket | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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My Morning Jacket

Songs In The Right Register

Jun 11, 2015 Issue #53 - April/May 2015 - Tame Impala Bookmark and Share

Curtis Mayfield. Prince. My Morning Jacket. If these three artists don’t immediately seem like natural peers, maybe you haven’t heard My Morning Jacket’s Jim James ease comfortably into an upper register while at the mic.

“I think falsetto’s a really cool thing,” James says. “It’s just another color in the paintbox. It’s not so much a deliberate thing, but it’s just a message that I received from the song or whatever that it wants to be falsetto.”

For My Morning Jacket’s seventh album, The Waterfall, the track “Compound Fracture” seemed to make more sense with higher vocals during recordings, but the band is dropping a couple of keys lower when playing it live. There are times, however, where a particular lightness has an undeniable impact.

“Sometimes I’ll move a song’s key around in order to not sing it falsetto, but then other times we’ll move the key around and sing it and it’ll not be falsetto, and it’ll be weird,” says James.

The Waterfall is the latest example of a band not only being positively fearless in veering from one style of music to another on the same album, but also managing to sound right at home in any direction. For “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall),” the quartet moves through contrasting passages like prog masters, while the soaring, emotional uplift of

“Believe (Nobody Knows)” may be the feel-good spiritual anthem of the year. “Get the Point” is a gorgeous, acoustic-driven track that echoes ‘60s folk-pop, followed by the rock punch of “Big Decisions.”

As some songs on The Waterfall deliver strong, direct lyrical ideas and others seem open to interpretation atop the music’s fluid structures, listeners might look for a unifying thought. For James, any thematic link would likely be down to the songs’ shared origin.

“There’s something always that ends up tying songs together that end up together, because we didn’t really set out to record just the songs that were on the record. We recorded tons of songs. And then, for whatever reason, these songs just felt best to go together.

“It’s kind of like some weird puzzle or something. I’ve tried several times to come into an album with a concept or an overarching theme, but usually that doesn’t work out for me because, I don’t know, that’s just the way life is, I guess. The only theme I could say is that’s the way my life is like over the two or three years leading up to that record.”

With the sessions resulting in a wealth of unreleased material, a follow-up album is planned for 2016. Anyone having heard two or more My Morning Jacket albums probably knows better than to drop the needle on a new release of theirs with any particular expectations in mind, which could be viewed as a plus by many. As The Waterfall reaches the marketplace, James has settled into being more philosophical than apprehensive about the rollout.

“I try to say to new bands or people that might be afraid of releasing music for the first time to not be afraid because, no matter what you’re going to do, somebody’s going to hate it, somebody’s going to love it, and I think at the end of the day that’s pretty liberating if you try not to let either of those extremes get to your head.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s April/May 2015 print issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]



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Morning Thoughts
October 21st 2015

Jim James is awesome!  I love this, “It’s just another color in the paintbox.”  How cool!

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