Before the review, a little context. This is the first release for Louisville's My Morning Jacket since the restructure of the band earlier this year, with original guitarists Johnny Quaid and Danny Cash leaving the band. They were soon replaced by guitarist Carl Broemel and Keyboardist Bo Koster and the band moved to a new location (the Catskills mountain of New York) to find and hone a new sound.
So you would be forgiven for feeling a little apprehension as to how this, essentially a debut record in its own right, would compare to earlier material. And it takes less than a minute for the answer to come. Despite the changes it could have been easy for lead singer and songwriter Jim James to create a defining 'alt-country' record and found fame on the back of misguided comparisons to artists like Willy Mason. Instead he and his newfound crusaders have created a reverb-soaked masterpiece that floats above the boundaries of genres, gracefully taking notes from country, soul, disco, space rock and anything else under the evening sun.
It's as hard to tie down a genre to 'Z' as it is pleasurable to listen to. Opener 'Wordless Chorus'sounds like Phoenix brought up in a dusty midwest bar, while 'Gideon' sounds like early *U2* (before Bonos ego got the better of him) drunk on Southern Comfort and wailing into a wind tunnel.
The album highlight, for this gaping reviewer at least, is the fourth track 'What a wonderful man', which frees itself of the sub-dued, melancholic atmosphere of previous tracks and rolls on disco lines and honeycomb-sweet vocals. Its hard to describe how it works, but it just does.
No such problems arise for describing the album as a whole though. This album soars effortlessly throughout its entirety, combining the majestic and haunting with the stark and sacherine and never losing its way. In essence this would have been the perfect late-summer record, but as the repeat button flickers endlessly you are reminded that late-summer is only ten months away, and with 'Z' the time will float by.
9Jordan Dowling's Score