My Morning Jacket's 'The Waterfall' Can Beat You Down Or Lift You Up

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There's an appealing inscrutability to the music of My Morning Jacket that continues on the band's new album, The Waterfall. (Courtesy of the artist)
There's an appealing inscrutability to the music of My Morning Jacket that continues on the band's new album, The Waterfall. (Courtesy of the artist)

The title of the new My Morning Jacket album, The Waterfall, is a metaphor for life beating you down. That's what frontman Jim James told Rolling Stone magazine. But in a gentler sense, the music itself is kind of like a waterfall — cascading notes, opaque layers of sound, and rippling arrangements that can bend or break the verse-chorus structure of traditional rock songs.

There's an appealing inscrutability to the music of My Morning Jacket that continues on The Waterfall. The band has always plied decades' worth of rock, country, soul and jammy psychedelia without being any one of those things. And even though James' enigmatic vocals have wound their way through seven albums with My Morning Jacket, the things he can do with his voice grow increasingly remarkable. In "Believe (Nobody Knows)," he tucks words into unexpected points, toying with his phrasing in a way that adds weight to the overarching philosophy of his lyrics.

Beneath My Morning Jacket's musical strata is a deeply ingrained spirituality, and on The Waterfall, it's directed toward the natural world. But even as he ponders the inevitability of nature, James points to the things we can control — the direction our lives will go, and maybe even our own happiness. After all, a waterfall can beat you down if you're standing right under it, but take a few steps back and it just might prove inspirational.

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Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The band My Morning Jacket has spent more than a decade forging its sound. The band has just released its seventh album. It's called "The Waterfall." Meredith Ochs has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIKE A RIVER")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Breeze has blown; leaves have fallen.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: The title of the new My Morning Jacket album is a metaphor for life beating you down. That's what frontman Jim James told Rolling Stone magazine. But in a gentler sense, the music itself is kind of like a waterfall - cascading notes, opaque layers of sound and rippling arrangements that can bend or break the structure of traditional rock songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIKE A RIVER")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Vocalizing).

OCHS: There’s an appealing inscrutability to the music of My Morning Jacket that continues on this new album. They’ve always managed to ply decades’ worth of rock, country, soul and jammy psychedelia without being any one of those things. And even though Jim James’s enigmatic vocals have wound their way through seven albums, the things he can do with his voice grow increasingly remarkable. On this song, he tucks words into unexpected points. He toys with his phrasing in a way that adds weight to the overarching philosophy of his lyrics.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BELIEVE")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) It begins and on and on. The baby's born, the elders down, all in their time. Start of dawn, the setting sun, the day has come, my mind is open, my oh, my oh.

Believe, believe, believe, believe, nobody knows. Believe, believe, believe, believe, nobody knows for sure.

OCHS: Beneath My Morning Jacket's musical strata is a deeply ingrained spirituality, and on the new album, it's directed toward the natural world. But even as he ponders the inevitability of nature, Jim James points to the things we can control, the direction our lives will go and maybe even our own happiness. After all, a waterfall can beat you down if you're standing right under it. But take a few steps back and it just might prove inspirational.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN ITS INFANCY")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Again I stop the waterfall by simply thinking. Again I stop the waterfall before my breathing. Again I stop the waterfall by finally feeling. Again I stop the waterfall by just believing.

BLOCK: We're listening to the new album from My Morning Jacket. It's called "The Waterfall." Meredith Ochs is a talkshow host and DJ at Sirius XM radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.