On their seventh studio album, My Morning Jacket find solace and comfort in the natural order of the world around them. The Louisville rock gods return to reign with a showmanship of their invaluable talent. The Waterfall was produced by Jim James and Tucker Martine, who recently worked on new albums from Modest Mouse, Sufjan Stevens, Punch Brothers, and The Decemberists; it was released through ATO Records. The Waterfall is a graceful and confident drive, which connects Jim James’ soul with nature. The quirky underbelly of My Morning Jacket’s immensity is still apparent but tucked gently away and only called upon sparingly. The Waterfall is as delicate as it is imaginative.
On the opening track, “Believe (Nobody Knows),” Jim James takes a moment to preach positivity and having faith in your life’s path. James had a clear agenda when he approached this record: let it be. Although he definitely expands this Beatles-ideology beyond its usual capacity, James is simply living in the moment, confident, level-headed, and clear. With the gorgeously spiritual “Like a River,” James sings about renewal, about how even the smallest bumps in life are meant to happen, and how about we need to keep moving forward. Although it isn’t the most creative approach, comparing life’s winding path to a river, My Morning Jacket make up for it with triumphant strumming and tribal harmonies.
With “Spring (Among the Living),” My Morning Jacket thrive in rejuvenation. They hold off for quite a while, but transcend with a combination of James’ voice soaring and cracking, intricate drum patterns, and high-squealing keys. However, once again we find My Morning Jacket choosing sonic quality over content. On the sincere and oddly romantic breakup track, “Get the Point,” James’ lyrics read like a journal entry to a past lover. It’s akin to one of those conversations you have in your head with someone you need to be upfront with, but can’t find the time. “And then I realized all the time I was wasting / Trying to mend a broken situation / Day dreaming of leaving I only had to do it.” Again, James’ sole interest on this record is to live freely, without regrets. In a sense, The Waterfall feels like a cleansing for My Morning Jacket; it’s a very necessary album for where they are.
The Waterfall has its moments of deep reflection and thoughtfulness. “Compound Fracture” shows off My Morning Jacket’s agnostic and pessimistic side, but still within the realms of enlightenment. James isn’t damning religion as much as he is trying to be accepting of all ways in which we find true peace, happiness, and guidance. “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” is incredibly earnest and acts as the focal point of the album’s primary symbol: a waterfall. The waterfall symbolizes life; although the river ends, the water still carries itself through many different stages and forms. It encompasses the many different ways in which we learn to survive. The waterfall can even symbolize life beating down on us, as James mystifies when he sings, “Again, I stop the waterfall by just believing.”
For their seventh album in seventeen years as a band, My Morning Jacket has finally found some breathing room. They show off their comfort, which works for them, but, at times, may work against them. Although The Waterfall could be seen as an easy album, it’s comforting as a fan to hear the effortlessness behind their culmination. The Waterfall isn’t going to change the face of rock-and-roll, but it’s another reminder of true, raw, uncompromising talent that is uplifting and powerful without being in your face.