My Morning Jacket
The Waterfall Album Review
Released May 4, 2015
Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic Rock
There are few things more frustrating in the world of music consumption than an album that’s about nothing; an album that’s just a series of slapped-together, individually produced songs. I don’t demand the records I hear to tell a continuing, coherent story by any means, but it’s important that I get the definite sense that the band I’m listening to has something to say. With The Waterfall, the seventh studio album by My Morning Jacket, there is never an inkling of doubt that frontman Jim James and company feel anything less than passionately that they needed to produce this collection of songs. The Waterfall is not only an enjoyable listen, but it’s seriously important, and reflective on the nature of relationships but never anything less than optimistic.
While The Waterfall’s collective whole is a noticeable change in pace for the band, My Morning Jacket makes a conscious decision to start off in familiar territory. “Believe (Nobody Knows)” is the first track, and it demands to be performed live. This is a great rock song that fully utilizes James’ one of a kind, still fascinating voice. Track two, “Compound Fracture,” is a particularly strong song that’s a bit funkier than we’ve come to expect from the band, but could nonetheless never be confusedly attributed to any group but My Morning Jacket.
The first couple songs are great listens, but The Waterfall’s following three tracks, “Like a River,” “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall),” and “Get The Point” take worthwhile risks. “Like a River” seems to be a widely agreed upon favorite track and, though it’s not mine, I can understand completely. It’s a relatively slow exploration piece, but it feels big, grand, all the same. Next is “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall),” a truly powerful piece; as this song builds, the metaphor of a waterfall as the constant pressure and activity in our lives becomes evident, and James explains this better in the song than I could ever describe in a review. My definite favorite track on The Waterfall, however, is its fifth, “Get The Point.” It’s a short, obvious, kind of schlocky and simple breakup song, but there’s so much pathos infused that it’s hard to not fall in love with “Get The Point.”
As we move into the second half of The Waterfall, minor issues begin to crop up, but these are more than balanced out. “Spring (Among The Living)” has some amazing guitar work, but it’s still longer than it needs to be at six minutes. I’m sure this would be a tremendous work to hear live, but it doesn’t wholly succeed on this album. Similarly, “Thin Line”, song seven, is a good song with everyone firing on all cylinders, but it simply doesn’t stand out. Thankfully, both of the (incredibly small) missteps in “Spring” and “Thin Line” are forgotten by “Big Decisions.” A crowd-pleasing single, “Big Decisions” is just a really fun, addictive jam. Writing this review was especially hard because I kept wanting to replay “Big Decisions.”
The Waterfall climaxes well with “Tropics (Erase Traces)” and “Only Memories Remain.” The former has a catchy hook, but is notable mainly due to the surprisingly high level of aggression featured. My Morning Jacket, though never naïve, is generally a hopeful, non-cynical group, but “Tropics” is a huge shift, one that works because it’s rare. And the very last track, “Only Memories Remain,” is seven sweet minutes of sad nostalgia. If this song doesn’t make you feel anything, you’re even more of a mostly unemotional robot than I am. Maybe it didn’t need to be seven whole minutes, but “Only Memories Remain” is the only song on The Waterfall that could possibly close out this album; it encapsulates the record as a whole in a special way.
If you don’t enjoy The Waterfall, that’s fine. I can’t really understand how you wouldn’t love the majority of the album, but hey, you’re more than welcome to make up your own mind. Still, one critique that has no hope of standing up is that The Waterfall isn’t about anything, because that couldn’t be more incorrect. My Morning Jacket’s newest album isn’t quite their best, but it’s an important record that is about so much. Go listen to it now. And then listen to it again.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Believe (Nobody Knows), Big Decisions, Get The Point
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Spring (Among The Living), Thin Line