Album Reviews: Z by My Morning JacketI know My Morning Jacket had its fine points before this record, and it’s cool that they recorded their albums in silos in middle America. But somehow I always felt trapped in one of those silos with the The Allman Brothers fronted by Neil Young. But Jim James and the boys have made me a believer with this spacey rock gem.
The album pulls you into its mystery from the first note of “Wordless Chorus” - a deep, cryptic bassline that made me double check the CD player. I soon realized that Louisville, Kentucky’s My Morning Jacket have created a new genre: Space Age Country. The sweet-croonin' country spirit is still here, but I guess they shouldn’t be pigeonholed as a Southern country-rock outfit anymore. Z is closer to The Bends (Radiohead) and The Soft Bulletin (Flaming Lips) than it is to Neil Young or even Wilco.
The album was produced in upstate New York with John Leckie (Radiohead, Stone Roses) but it might as well have been made on the moon. Z is a wholly original, mysterious beast in and of itself. Any and every comparison to the diverse styles it showcases doesn’t quite nail it on the head. I think every listener will hear something different. If this is possible, Z can best be described as a mixture of (are you ready for this?): The Beach Boys, The Ventures, The Who, Elton John, Curtis Mayfield, Neil Young, Pixies, Flaming Lips, and Radiohead. Yup, that’s about right. Oh and of course, Bob Marley: “Off the Record” is practically a reggae song.
With many listens of Z under my belt, I still have no idea what it’s all about. But I think that might be the point. It’s a mystery that’s to remain that way. The whole album feels out of space and time, but works on almost every level. It’s diverse almost to a fault, but somehow the songs and sounds gel into My Morning Jacket's finest work to date and one of this year’s best albums. - Doug Kamin
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