Monday, June 16, 2008

My Morning Jacket CD review

Jim James, onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio, Calif., April 27, 2008

(This review originally appeared in IE Weekly)

My Morning Jacket
Evil Urges

Reinvention is part of many groups’ sonic evolution. If they go off on a tangent for too long though, a backlash usually follows. The tricky part is finding middle ground, which My Morning Jacket does masterfully throughout fifth album Evil Urges. Leader Jim James downplays the reverb and gets his R&B and funk jones on during the triple opening salvo. The title track - about mixed signals between religion and morality – is pure Smokey Robinson smoothness as strings swell in the background. Fat bass grooves and James’ helium singing dominate the urgent “Highly Suspicious,” which could be an early Prince outtake if not for the militant backing vocals.

Longtime followers should dig the Kentucky band’s trademark crunchy rockers (politically-themed “I’m Amazed,” the fun “Aluminum Park,” “Remnants”). There’s a Philly soul vibe to the effervescent “Thank You Too” and old time country feel on “Sec Walkin’,” sweetened by pedal steel and prominent harmonies (the quintet ably assists James in this area). Other standouts – no filler here, folks - include the haunting narrative “Librarian,” volcanic guitar work in “Smokin’ from Shootin’” and “Touch Me, I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2,” a mind-blowing exaltation of love done epic, prog-rock style.

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