We start promisingly enough with a riffy reveille, Victory Dance. A preamble lets us prepare and get a groovy bearing. By the time the bass drops, the only thing missing is the gurgle of bubbles and skunky smoke to match the booming gravity. Lyrics pair nicely with biblical truisms, but hold a distinct lack of menace. When he sings of war paint, the feeling is more backyard clubhouse than battlefield.
My Morning Jacket‘s offerings are always sonically rich and soulfully sincere. With the proper herbal accompaniments, they invariably satisfy. The jam band ethos, however, sometimes becomes spaghetti rock, and some strands are a bit too long. Circuital, the second track, exhibits this flaw. At 7+ minutes, it is a few laps too many.
That isn’t to say the album doesn’t have some shimmering keepers. In addition to the strong opening of Victory Dance, Wonderful (The Way I Feel) really is wonderful. A simple acoustic offering in the vein of Stevie Nicks’ Landslide or even the more plaintive side of John Denver. Swap the extra instrumentation with a harmonica or a fiddle and you have a piece of great american music.
Outta My System takes a similar Stars and Stripes swing at the No Depression anthem pioneered by the likes of Wilco. Based on the live My Morning Jacket shows I’ve seen, this one will benefit from the looser reins of a smoky stage and the 11 minute jam. A Champagne Supernova for a more sober decade.
Between the highlights, the rest of the album is patently inoffensive. Light. A service to anyone breaching the psychedelic envelope and needing a nudge back home in contrast to something poignant or existential. Even the radio ready single, Holding Black Metal feels like a less edgy Beck song. The backing vocals keep it coming, but it ultimately fizzles. Many tracks leave impressions of nicely hollered lyrics with occasionally gripping music.
The final highlight is the infant lullaby, Slow Slow Tune. It is an excuse to spend more time in a beautiful moment. Any beautiful moment. Lyrics show a bit of beyond the grave creepiness, but, in the end, it reaches both the grand and intimate. A hint of humor places some individuality in what is mostly a sonic backdrop for escapism.
At the end of the day, that would be the most damning criticism of the whole effort, sonic escapism. However, with the inclusion of Victory Dance, Wonderful, and Outta My System, My Morning Jacket brings plenty of substance. They also’ aggressively’ avoid buzz kills. This caution leads to some pretty, safe, but uninspired moments. At the end of the album you may find yourself in a hazy slumber, but with a simple grin. For most cannabonauts, I would recommend plucking a few choice buds. For fans, go ahead and pack the whole thing. Ether way, My Morning Jacket has put another plank on their platform as a top tier psychedelic jam band.
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