My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves

My Morning Jacket
It Still Moves

Southern rock is generally assigned two distinctly different stigmas: dirty, uneducated music made by rednecks, or over-polished, riff-recycling, Hallmark-card-quoting CMT fluff. Fans of math-rock or post-rock usually overlook an album, or worse a band, immediately because of these hasty generalizations. So lest you, my faithful reader, be swayed by the first two words of this review, I urge you to read on.

That being said, My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves is a fine piece of work and manages to transcend both stereotypes of Southern rock. From the beginning, the band’s technicality and overall songwriting skill is apparent. “Mahgeetah” centers around what seems to be thousands of plucked guitar strings and Jim James’ soaring vocals. “Dancefloors” employs jazzy, rocking horns over a rollicking guitar riff. “Golden” is a subdued, picked lament. It’s a narration of a lazy day made extraordinary by the imaginative powers of the mind: “Watchin’ a stretch of road / miles of light explode / driftin’ off / a thing I’d never done before.”

So far, so good. In fact, but for James’ obviously Southern accent and the loud guitars, it seems pretty, well, sophisticated. My Morning Jacket has a rural charm that isn’t off-putting to a city-dweller and independent music fan. Traditional picked guitars and solos are drowned in reverb and effective breakdowns. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s really not like anything I’ve heard before.

The best example of this dualistic aesthetic is “One Big Holiday.” The song begins with a feverish hi-hat, percussive bass, and hushed guitars. In fact, it sounds quite a bit like the beginning of a post-punk piece. Later, the familiar solos and James make their entries, grounding the song with a small-town vibe. “One Big Holiday” is the album’s single and is the best introduction to the band.

It Still Moves is alternately rural and urban, rough and refined, blaring and soft. It’s a dynamic creature, perhaps one of the best examples of the unification of a number of things: North and South, city and country. This is probably My Morning Jacket’s best and is a perfect introduction to the band’s career.