My Morning Jacket
The Waterfall II


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale USER (9 Reviews)
July 13th, 2020 | 54 replies


Release Date: 07/10/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: My Morning Jacket’s best album in fifteen years, flawed but beautiful

The Waterfall II, My Morning Jacket’s eighth studio effort, comes five years after their first album titled The Waterfall and decades into their career, which has seized a storied place in modern American rock music. At this point in their careers, often it seems a band has little left to prove, but that isn’t really the case here. Identifying the band’s best has often been a tricky business, with different fans swearing by various eras of the band’s past, but there seems to be something approaching a consensus that MMJ’s best days were behind them. After emerging with their 1999 debut’s melancholic country/folk meets indie rock sound, My Morning Jacket moved towards eclectic jam band/Southern rock epitomized by arguably their best album, 2003’s It Still Moves. With the following album Z, the band leaned towards poppier territory, but kept the level of quality high. After that though, many would say the group lost its footing, with a series of uneven efforts which never really matched the heights which came before.

The Waterfall (the first one), released in 2015, was to my eyes a step in the right direction, if still paling in comparison to the band’s earlier efforts. It highlighted several of the band’s strengths, notably frontman Jim James’ angelic voice, a beautiful mellow sound, and some nice guitar work, while also still being a bit tainted by a bland, middle-of-the-road alt-rock sound. Its successor follows in the same style, but it is just a bit better in nearly every department.

While The Waterfall II does come across cohesively, it’s hard to talk about it without acknowledging the diversity of the songs presented here. Indeed, it’s really a collection of songs which together represent the diverse sonic directions the band has plied over the past two decades or so. Opener “Spinning My Wheels”, “Run It”, and “Welcome Home” are all folk-leaning mellow tunes, and are also all highlights of the record. “Feel You”, “Beautiful Love (Wasn’t Enough”, and closer “The First Time” are slow-burning ballads, beautiful if understated. “Wasted” is the most hard-rocking track by far, a tad hit and miss but the guitar work is excellent and it will certainly become a live staple. “Magic Bullet” leans towards funky groove, while “Still Thinkin” is a bouncy poppy rock tune, and “Climbing The Ladder” is a bit of an understatedly weird little track which represents the band’s more experimental tendencies, albeit not very successfully.

The above song descriptions hopefully capture the album’s essence, a sort of grab-bag of the sounds which My Morning Jacket has explored over their career. If there’s a few misses and inconsistencies, all the better, for a band which, even at their best, has never made a perfect album. While it has notable flaws, this release is a very confident and competent effort from a band showing they still have more in the tank. The Waterfall II is well-recommended, and if you haven’t already heard them, check out It Still Moves and Z for good measure.




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user ratings (73)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
July 13th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I definitely felt this album needed a review, let me know your thoughts (on the review and on the album). Definitely found it tough to talk about this one without bringing in the context of the band's whole career.

helperoni
July 13th 2020


399 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

cool, nice review! i haven’t heard this yet but even with all the hype my expectations are pretty middling. i never got into the waterfall, felt like it had no character to it. circuital and evil urges had higher highs even if they were wildly uneven. from your review it seems like this might be more interesting than i thought

Digging: Duval Timothy - Help

Sunnyvale
July 13th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks @helperoni!



I do think that the overall site average for this one will eventually fall a few points. It sounds like you're pretty familiar with the band, and I agree that the last few albums where fairly iffy at points. This continues in the same vein, but I do think taken as a whole the quality is definitely higher.

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 13th 2020


35316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. I'd limit the comma usage a bit but otherwise this certainly gets the job done - props for covering this. I'm a little more impressed than you are with the album, but this is probably a more balanced take than I would have put forth. Wasted is an incredible rock song and the fact that more than half of the track is just one long breakdown makes it even better. I also love the blend of Beatles and Beach Boys vibes throughout (example: "Still Thinkin") with occasional forays into 70s psych-rock that seems to nod to Pink Floyd without being a direct rip off. You definitely got the mixed bag aspect of the album right; this does a little of everything but it's executed in such a way that nothing sounds out of place. I could go on for days about how much I enjoy this though.

Digging: Westelaken - Westelaken

Sunnyvale
July 13th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Sowing!



Definitely some good points, I do agree you seem to have a bit higher opinion of this than I do, but it's a great album. Have you heard the band's earlier stuff, like It Still Moves?

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 13th 2020


35316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've only heard Circuital onward, so that lack of reference might be why I love this so much. Either way, this rules.

ColeT
July 13th 2020


2111 Comments


Solid review, pos’d. Guess this would be a good time to get into this band.

Digging: Talking Heads - Fear of Music

helperoni
July 13th 2020


399 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

start with it still moves. great album

Sunnyvale
July 13th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sounds good Sowing, definitely recommend checking some of the earlier releases as they are very good.



Thanks ColeT! I second what helperoni said, It Still Moves is arguably their best album and also maybe the most representative of MMJ's classic sound

Gyromania
July 13th 2020


30326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

is this worth hearing if i thought evil urges was rly average?

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 13th 2020


35316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Never heard Evil Urges, but it's the best thing I've heard from them.

helperoni
July 13th 2020


399 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

prevailing opinion is evil urges is their least consistent/representative, and their worst. a handful of great songs but it’s a slog of a record. basically all of their other albums are more accessible

Gyromania
July 13th 2020


30326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

halfway through this and it's a stunner!

Sunnyvale
July 13th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, Evil Urges is their worst in my opinion. Glad to hear you're enjoying, Gyro

juiceviaorange
July 13th 2020


804 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hell yeah - this album is just what I needed smack dab in the middle of the summer. I love all of their albums and EPs but Evil Urges and Circuital are definitely a sag in the middle of their discography, but they are clearly resurgent (I love the two previously mentioned albums, so that hurt to say).

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 13th 2020


35316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. The summer rock album I didn't know I needed.

Sunnyvale
July 13th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep, this one definitely has nice summery vibes

helperoni
July 13th 2020


399 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

idk... magic bullet and wasted were pretty fun but i just found the rest really bland. definitely sounds like waterfall outtakes. circuital is still the best album post-Z imo

Sunnyvale
July 14th 2020


1649 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@helperoni, ah, that's too bad... I definitely think this album as a whole easily holds its own to the original Waterfall, but to each their own

helperoni
July 14th 2020


399 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i’m going to keep spinning it, could see it growing on me.



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