My Morning Jacket: At Dawn, Chocolate and Ice
Editor's Note: Here's reviews of two releases by My Morning Jacket, by two different writers. The first release came out last year, and has been written about here and there on this site before…but you can never mention a good band too often. The second release is newer.
My Morning Jacket, At Dawn (Darla)
reviewed by Ryan McKee
From Louisville, Kentucy, the band My Morning Jacket has been overrun with bands trying to sound like Slint. So, they ran the other way, screaming through the street like Paul Revere. You could call them alt country, but I'm not. Because that would give you images of Ryan Adams or Son Volt, which would be wrong images when thinking of MMJ.
Their new album At Dawn is more of a nostalgic look back at Neil Young, circa Harvest. A look back at Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. Just like the Beachwood Sparks' music transports you back to a Los Angeles that is unspoiled by smog, contaminated beaches, and pretentious indie kids, MMJ's takes you to the unspoiled open plains. To a place where you can sit under a huge velvety sky, filled with countless stars, and nothing will interupt your long thoughts. Except, perhaps, the occasional buffalo.
MMJ's singer, Jim James, is only 22-years old, but his voice sounds like he's had a lifetime of loneliness. He really does sound like a Neil Young incarnate, mixed with hints of haunting classic country and the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne. His songs are filled with emotion, but he's definitely not going to reach out and give you a hug.
It seems like I'm painting a dim picture, but before you go reaching for the Prozac, read on. The songs on At Dawn are about characters that seem like they're pulled out of a Raymond Carver book. Sure these people don't have the best lives, they fuck up, they drink a lot, but they're stories are told with enough dark humor and frankness that I didn't feel sorry for them. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for times in my life that paralleled theirs.
Kind of a postscript to this CD review, I just saw My Morning Jacket live. I expected a mellow, maybe even psychedelic, show, but got the opposite. Their show really rocked. Jim James has Metallica hair and headbanged through the whole set. Instead of long trippy jams, they kicked it up and sounded more like Led Zeppelin than Neil Young. But in a good way. One of the best live shows I've seen lately.
My Morning Jacket, Chocolate and Ice (Badman)
reviewed by Dave heaton
If you've read anything I've written about My Morning Jacket before, you know that I'm breathlessly awed by their music. The way their melodic style of atmospheric, slightly countryish rock, driven by lead singer Jim James' amazing voice, hits me each time I hear it is hard to describe.
Their latest release, the 6-track Chocolate and Ice EP (with 5 songs and an answering machine message) displays their unique style of music while pushing it in various new stylistic directions. At its center is the 24-minute "Cobra," a song that really seems like several songs put together. It starts out as a funky, danceable soul stroll, then segues into a slow, bluesy instrumental jam which gets increasingly more minimalist. From there it turns into a slow reggae-ish groove (with singing again; a different melody than before) before becoming a pretty, electronic instrumental dream. That song is bookended by two acoustic pop love songs ("Sooner" and "Holy"), the latter with a humorous style and a Flaming Lips-ish psychedelic keyboard part.
On the whole it's one more unique release from the Jackets, a trip into various interesting territories.
Note: the group also has another new release, a split CD with Songs: Ohia on Jade Tree which sounds great so far (and will no doubt be reviewed next issue).