Album Review: My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

By: Adrian Herrera

Staff Writer

On their 7th studio album, Kentucky rockers My Morning Jacket prove that they can still weave through genres as easily as a river meanders through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Shifting from neo-soul to psychedelic-folk to straight on blues-rock, The Waterfall never ceases to impress with a kaleidoscopic palette of sounds that root themselves firmly in classic Americana, but branch steadily up into the cosmos.

Coming out of a spinal injury, a break-up, and extreme writer’s block, front-man Jim James struggles to relocate himself among the ruins of his past. His straightforward lyrics and earnest, country-boy croon lay his heart bare as each song tells of hardships he has overcome: a lost love, stifled creativity, self-doubt. But don’t mistake this album for a cry for help – it’s a victory march, a triumph of acceptance and positivity over self-deprecation. The Waterfall is itself a metaphor for the flow of ideas that creators battle to control without overflowing or drying up. On the title track, James realizes, “the idea was always there in its infancy, the seed took root over many years.” He understands that the desire to create is something innate within him, but more importantly that he must follow his own internal current down that river. The opening track, “Believe,” finds James wailing, “believe nobody knows,” a call for faith in one’s self, and a shot at all the critics and even friends that think they know his path better than he does. On “Get the Point,” we witness the death of a relationship. Jim James wishes his former lover, “all the love in this world,” but hopes that they “get the point:” a tender yet firm message that shows James standing tall and resolute all on his own, needing no outside affirmation to find peace in his choices.

As Jim James wades out of the mess of his emotions, the band provides a sonic foundation that is heavy enough for him to stand on. Like a great DJ, the band has an ability to find aural links between styles that don’t immediately suggest each other. The closing song, “Only Memories,” is a slow, patient ballad that is as much reminiscent of Motown R&B as it is of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Mixing 70’s pop song-writing sensibility with a 21st century knack for experimentation, the instrumentation and production are clean and purposeful, making this the most stylistically varied, yet cohesive sounding My Morning Jacket album to date.

Far-out yet familiar, The Waterfall is a work of artistic maturity – an album about perseverance in the face of self-doubt by a band that has been around the block a few times, had some fights along the way, but still manages to know itself. There are loud, proud songs, quiet, pained songs, and ethereal tracks of introspection and mystery. With so much variety, anyone can find songs on this album that speak to them directly. Give this one a good, thorough listen – its depth of emotion and range of styles will reward you.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Like a River,” “The Waterfall,” “Get the Point,” “Thin Line,” “Tropics,” “Only Memories”

The Waterfall is out now on Capitol Records.

2 Comments on "Album Review: My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall"

  1. MMJ is from Louisville, KY. Not Tennessee.

    • Adrian Herrera | May 12, 2015 at 5:49 PM | Reply

      You are correct. The error has been fixed. Your readership and insight are much appreciated.

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