I find myself pleasantly surprised by My Morning Jacket‘s newest release. Much of their older catalog I have missed, so I can’t really provide any real analysis or criticism of their development. But starting in about 2007 I developed a mild interest in the band. Not enough to go back and buy their previous releases but enough to keep track of future releases. I had seen the album art for their 2005 album Z all over (it is quite memorable), but it wasn’t until rifling through the used CD rack in Ventura’s Salzar’s Records that I decided to take the plunge. I found it enjoyable from start to finish with a few stand out tracks, but not enough to blow me away. In the years that followed I listened to their subsequent releases and found them fairly lackluster. Evil Urges was a nice listen, but it didn’t really stick with me and Circuital was completely forgettable apart from the first track. Needless to say, I didn’t have terribly high expectations for their 2015 release.
Even from the first listen I was immersed in the world of The Waterfall. The album is beautiful right from the start. It possesses an atmosphere that makes me nostalgic for a place I’ve never been or seen. I find, for the first time that My Morning Jacket has outdone themselves and made something as good as Z. Many diehard fans might find this sentiment sacrilegious, but I stand by it. Over the years Z did grow in my appreciation while Evil Urges and Circuital waned. I fully expect in the years to come to look back at the album and think of it as a classic. My nostalgia for an unknown place will be replaced by nostalgia for these early listens.
The album starts with the track “Believe (Nobody Knows)” and while I don’t find it a perfect opener (not as masterful of an opener as Spoon‘s track “Small Stakes”), it is interesting enough to make me continue on. The second track, “Compound Fracture” is the highlight, being bluesy and catchy. Much of the rest of the album is very atmospheric, evoking images of the unexplored wilderness represented on the album art. It picks up again for the track “Big Decisions” before plunging back into the more moody and atmospheric “Tropics (Erase Traces)”. It comes to an end that feels like a suitable farewell and haunting end to a beautiful journey.
As a whole, the album is wonderful. It has ups and downs which complement each other in sound and seem to tie together as part of the same unit. Some tracks stand out, but a few seem to peter into boredom, particularly “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”. If you find you enjoy Indie-Rock that skirts along the edges of country and psychedelic rock then I would say it’s a must listen. I feel The Waterfall deserves acclaim and I know I’ll have it on rotation for some time to come. I’d say 4 out of 5.