Today, My Morning Jacket announced their upcoming LP The Waterfall (being released May 4 on ATO Records) and shared the studio version of their first single, “Big Decisions.” This will be their seventh studio album, with another due in 2016 arising from the same sessions that yielded The Waterfall. For this first set, its themes are centered around those midlife transitional periods that crop up after you’ve settled down. Lead singer Jim James likens the songs to embodying “a weird turning point for the universe. … the sound of the page turning and not being sure what’s coming next.”
All told, they’ve shared three of its tracks, all of which were premiered live in early February at the band’s yearly Mexican festival One Big Holiday. Though it’s hard to discerningly review live tracks because their sound quality is all over the map, Vinyl Mag makes its own rules, so here ya go.
“Big Decisions” starts off like a tropical drink, but quickly switches to some of the best Flying V power chords the band has put to tape. Jim James puts on his best McCartney affectation for the chorus: “What do you want me to do?” becomes “What do you want me ta tooooo?”, and his falsetto doesn’t make itself as known as it has in the past. But the band’s formative pedal steel DOES, which is just one component that makes this a return to form. Jacketheads felt betrayed by the sonic departures of 2008’s Evil Urges, whose songs like “Highly Suspicious” felt even more like a drug trip than usual. But “Big Decisions” has the circa 2002 southern charm and big, tough choruses a la “One Big Holiday.” My Morning Jacket have proven time and again that they can reinvent themselves while staying true to their farm jam essence.
We’ll forgive MMJ for copping the drumbeat from Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” because what follows is a swirling, anthemic ode to enduring friendship. Bits of “Compound Fracture” sound like a sped up War On Drugs melody, which makes sense given the band’s multiple stage collabs with TWOD frontman Adam Granduciel (including at this very festival).The warm guitar hugs you as the synth spurts send you skyward. In line with “Big Decisions” it’s a pretty straightforward classic rock take, but thankfully features some vintage James screamo.
“Only Memories Remain”
“Only Memories Remain” is the sleepiest, meandering-est of the trio. As with most MMJ album closers (“Good Intentions” doesn’t count), it’s the closest thing to a waking dream state. Live it clocks in at six minutes and change, which, unusually, is brief for them. Though the live recording masks the lyrics, its title and tracklisting placement heavily imply that it focuses on death. Given that My Morning Jacket like to present codified bodies of work, this parallels nicely with the track ender “Movin’ Away” on their last record Circuital, which examined how a life in transition can sometimes create another life entirely.
The tracklisting for The Waterfall is as follows, whose song names reinforce what themes we should expect to hear:
- Believe (Nobody Knows)
- Compound Fracture
- Like a River
- In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)
- Get the Point
- Spring (Among the Living)
- Thin Line
- Big Decisions
- Tropics (Erase Traces)
- Only Memories Remain
Though originally from Virginia, Kelsey recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a cavalcade of neat degrees. She's written for other sites like Wide Open Country, Half Past, Seeing Trees Music, The Cropper, InfUSion Magazine, and Blurt. Kelsey’s greatest weakness is a large bowl of pho, and though she doesn’t know it yet, her friends will soon host a soup intervention for her. In her spare time she enjoys exploring abandoned buildings, crafting dad-humor puns, collecting vintage key chains, writing long lists that utilize the Oxford comma, and acting like Larry David.