My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
Sometimes, it helps a band when they take the big leap from small label to big major, and when My Morning Jacket signed to ATO the danger of their sound being given a polished overhaul for mainstream radio lurked near. Thankfully however, It Still Moves, the Louisville, Kentucky outfits' third album, outshines every release of 2003, and is easily the best album of the year.
Weighing in at over seventy minutes, there isn's a trace of prog-rambling or lengthy instrumentation on the band's twelve tracks. There are more musical hooks and pounding guitar chords that would grace most band's Greatest Hits release, and staggeringly My Morning Jacket have crammed them all on just one album. It Still Moves sounds as if the band have fired up their Flux Capacitor and travelled back to the late sixties and sat in on Dylan & The Band record The Basement Tapes and Crosby, Stills & Nash jamming together. The songs are so delicate, and yet performed with such conviction that the band sound like veteran rockers with twenty plus years in the business.
Surprising therefore, that lead singer and principal songwriter Jim James is only in his mid-twenties despite his Allman Brothers beard. James' vocal tones revel in the deliberately over-used reverb effects that accentuate that live-from-your-uncle's-barn feel to the record. It often doesn't matter that you can't actually distinguish what James is singing, because his voice glides so naturally through the crisp guitars and drums that the tightness of the performance leaves a lasting impression. When opening track Mahgeetah opens with a calming tropical feel over James' "Sitting here with me and mine, all wrapped up in a bottle of mine" lyrics, you are already reassured by the relaxation offered in musical terms. In fact, the opening song could easily have closed most albums as an epic finale, but with regards to the remainder of It Still Moves, it sounds like a breezy overture.
My Morning Jacket cover every base, from sun-drenched acoustic glistener Golden through to epic power-rocker One Big Holiday, which sends shivers down the spine as soon as the high-hat intro kicks in. On recent EP single Run Thru', the bass distorts so heavily in the middle-eighth section that you feel like you've quickly dipped into Hissing Of Summer Lawn's waters and then stepped out again almost instantly. The album is so good, and so lengthy, that like The White Album it's almost a struggle to get through because it simply contains too much information. It's almost too tempting to hit repeat on many of the tracks, but if you can hold off, wait for the goosebumb inducing chorus of "take your money and your drugs" on Steam Engine as proof enough that a full listen to It Still Moves is very rewarding.
Whereas Kings Of Leon look the part but lack the tunes, and The Thrills look and sound the part but can't cut it live, My Morning Jacket are the complete package and are born to take centre stage, clearly destined for greater things. They borrow from the early seventies without a trace of revisionist homage, and yet produce an album with such staggering confidence that there is no question that It Still Moves will be talked about amongst Abbey Road, Pet Sounds, Marquee Moon and the other classic all-time albums in the same breath in years to come. Whilst some quarters will claim it isn't cool to champion My Morning Jacket for purely fashion purposes, those who do will certainly have the last laugh. Join the club now, and catch a band who are still climbing.