Music, and more to the point, musicians, are cyclical. A band can arc and pivot in many different directions exploring new sounds, themes, and styles. Between these periods of exploring the aural wilderness, performers will often times return to their roots to remind give them solid footing on their path.
About a year ago, I mentioned in The Waterfall II review that the record is the perfect resolution for a specific chapter of the My Morning Jacket story. The Waterfall period followed the catchy if not a bit scattered Evil Urges and Circuital, and can be characterized by tropes of loss and continuation to ethereal sounds that use more space than typical MMJ tunes. Now, after over four years (reminder that both Waterfall records were written in the same session) of patient anticipation, My Morning Jacket return with a batch of new songs that harken back to their Kentucky inception.
My Morning Jacket (Self Titled) has all the dogma of a great MMJ album; essentially big ass rock songs that can fill stadiums...songs that are equally comfortable in both lighter-raised arenas or smokey clubs. The ultimately, the goal of an MMJ record should be to capture the transcendent experience of seeing the band live, filled with semi-off-center rock-and-roll chaos that shuffles through genres with little thought, but plenty of purpose. My Morning Jacket does great work bottling the MMJ concert experience within the context of studio makeup and fresh songs. The album pinballs between the ambiguous classifications of MMJ; lacking narrative thread, but far from haphazard sounding. The album opens with "Regularly Scheduled Programming," a dark synthy number, teetering on industrial edginess, that decries societies overuse of technology and medication.
From there, My Morning Jacket goes through the rolodex of MMJ styles. Songs like "Least Expected" roll along a groovy shuffle that will get firmly plant itself in the ears of listeners. The big rock tunes range from the sprawling to the scuzzy. Like waves crashing into the shore, the songs of My Morning Jacket feature eerie and spacious builds into battering crescendos; the peak of the MMJ experience. Lyrically speaking, My Morning Jacket has lots of Jim James' musings on the usual threats to Utopia; consumption, capitalism, fear, etc. His best work however, is when he recounts quirky observations, such as his jaunt through the mall in the spectral "The Devil's in the Details."
Just like all returns to form, My Morning Jacket might not be the most experimental record in the MMJ catalog. The album does not find the band pushing themselves in new or different directions. However, that is kind of the point of this release. For over a decade now, MMJ has been showing the world where it can go as a band, but My Morning Jacket is a grandiose of statement of where they came from, and the bubbling energy they have always possessed.