My Morning Jacket’s The Waterfall And The New Americana
In the stream of reviews and interviews published before My Morning Jacket’s new record The Waterfall came out yesterday, two threads have emerged as the main narrative of the band’s seventh release: that it’s their best since 2005’s Z, and that it is an uncharacteristically dark release from a group that made their name on an anthemic, awe-inspiring brand of constantly mutating rock music. Both are more or less true, though the former isn’t necessarily saying much. MMJ put out two other albums since Z. There was 2008’s Evil Urges, which has some striking standouts that have remained reliable inclusions in the MMJ canon but is otherwise most fans’ easy candidate for the band’s worst album, and then Circuital in 2011, which was very, very good and gave us some strange gems like “Victory Dance” and “Holdin’ On To Black Metal,” but also didn’t quite live up to the heights of earlier MMJ. The Waterfall is stronger overall than both, a sharp 10-song collection that gives you a lot of what you’d want and expect from a MMJ record while still subtly injecting enough surprises into the songs — in terms of both sonic quality and form — that help maintain the feeling that no two MMJ releases are overly similar, despite the host of qualities that people regularly attribute to them as shorthand (“reverb-drenched alt-country/Southern rock indie band” being the most common).