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Currents of optimism run amuck in The Waterfall , My Morning Jacket's 7th studio album. The sounds are a return to famliar form as Gibson ES-335 reverb fueled flights and double drum beats ("Spring") lead you to believe that Kentucky's finest (sorry bourbon) are in a comfortable groove that will transition absurdly well from studio to live arena (I'm looking at you Bonnaroo). Perhaps it's the mindfulness that comes with lead singer Jim James' meditation or the realization that the cards flew a bit too far from the chest on 2008's Evil Urges and 2011's Circuital but the band's four year abscence (at least as studio efforts are concerned) have found the band in good form, rejuvanated, and obviously waiting for good weather just like the rest of us. Good news, it's here.
"Every winter I just feel like I want to die. I'm just so fucking sick of being beaten down by the wintertime and I feel like every spring my life is saved and I'm reborn." -Jim James on Song Exploder
That quote sums up The Waterfall admirably. Starting with "Believe (Nobody Knows)" you're met with an optimistic cohesiveness of sound that slowly grows into a fantastic audible experience. While "Believe" is lyrically the worst offering ("believe, believe, believe, believe" sings James multiple times), the band uses the song effectively as a starting point for a solid 48 minutes that foreshadows good things to come. This is quite possibly the happiest My Morning Jacket album we've ever heard. The optimism culminates with "Spring (Among the Living)" at track six, an evolving journey of awakening that starts with the equivalent of an early morning Jim James yawn and stretch (an echo really) before an electric trail leads you to open pastures climaxing with layered guitar, tambourine piano, drums, and synthesizers. The cadence of the track is that of someone heading down to open water and leaves you in a unique state of clarity.
While not at the completely alt-country junction of Z nor the industrious and strange R&B stylings of Evil Urges James and company seem to have hit a sweet spot of alt-rock real estate (acoustic and electric) where diverging from what made them successful is allowed yet often humble origins are still present. Jazz stylings, electronic blips, and acoustic offerings are all here. "Get to the Point" at track five is a sublime acoustic effort that will fit on the top shelf with "Golden" and "Bermuda Highway" and "Only Memories Remain," the album's closer is a stylistic and appropriate homage to George Harrison and sounds like something off of All Things Must Pass . The Waterfall just sounds fantastic, the songs ebb and flow into one another as a steady stream of conscious while dealing with relationships ("Big Decisions"), friendship ("Only Memories Remain"), in a fleeting yet enjoyable manner. The tracklisting is so naturally affable that every song feels as if it is an appropriate pre cursor for the next.
Like a bear ready for spring (the band's self confessed spirit animal), My Morning Jacket forges ahead with an amalgamation of old and new alike. What's here works absurdly well with the concoction of pop, electro, and reverb rock and alt-country combining for the perfect cocktail of summer sunrise, sunshine, and sunset.