A modern classic

By Mark Grabowski

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Not the “food doesn’t taste as good,” “losing interest in friends,” Paxil kind of funk; its more along the lines of a rut. A bright glowing neon sign bearing the word “change” seems to be continually blinking behind my eyes, urging me on. Of all my attempts to heed its call so far, none has been more life changing than my purchase of a record player. Suddenly the entire world of cheap used-vinyl has become available to me. I have a list of at least 50 bands I have long wanted to check out but always lacked the cash to really make a dent. With vinyl, I can finally begin my true musical education.
Listening to my new-old rock collection, I came to a startling realization: I can hear something flowing through all the great rock records, a commonality in spite of each group’s differences. The expectation in the singer’s voices, the drummer’s beats, the guitarist’s licks– they all seem to scream out, “This one is for the ages.”
When I listen to My Morning Jacket’s latest releases, I get the exact same feeling. Perched between indie-rock and alt-country, My Morning Jacket sound like no one else. Singer/guitarist Jim James’ voice gets frequently compared to Neil Young’s, and rightly so– but it is more passionate, fuller, than Young’s ever was. Drums, bass, rhythm and lead guitar make up this rock outfit, but keyboardist Danny Cash provides some rather splendid atmospheric touches that add one last bit of oomph to already brilliant tracks.
The first song on one of their latest releases, a split EP with the indie-rock band Songs: Ohia, is called “O the One That Is Real,” and is probably the highlight of the group’s three stellar tracks included here. The song begins with a snare hit; then guitar and bass enter with a simple but stunningly effective riff that small town bands try their whole lives to write.
James croons, “Always leave your television on/ Always keep your answers by the phone,” to a similarly simple melody that is infectious as it is glorious. The second track, “How Do You Know” is another stunner, this one slower and in waltz time– think a combination O.K Computer Radiohead (for just the instrumentation), Neil Young, and the later day Flaming Lips, and you’ll have a fairly good idea of the sound of this track.
But as the band slips into the chorus, with James’ “How do you know?” lyrical line playing off the answering “I know cause I’ve got that old time feeling,” you can hear My Morning Jacket transcend all its influences, creating a classic sound all their own.

My Morning Jacket performs at Starr Hill May 21 with Small Town Workers.  8:30pm, $5.

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