Albums of the Aughts: My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves

As far as great alt-country/alt-folk and Americana albums go, this decade was a gold mine. From the traditional craft and gorgeous vocal harmonies of Fleet Foxes, to the simultaneously direct and hypnotizing Sam Bean, a regular plethora of differing and equally enchanting interpretations of American folk seemed to be available. Out of the most remote woods, hills and streams of our back country and into the spotlight, the pensive, bearded and openly emotional songwriter was at large in the 2000’s. In the midst of this trend, the Kentucky boys of My Morning Jacket dropped a milestone work in indie, country, and rock-and-roll with It Still Moves, one of the first works to mix all of these musical forms together, but also one that did it so damn well.
Like its precursors Tennessee Fire and At Dawn, It Still Moves swells with emotion, clever songwriting and imagery of golden orchards, lonely hills and small-town bars. More so than at any point in their past, with ISM‘s for the first time The Jacket sounded clearly settled-in to their sound. From the opening riffs on “Mahgeetah,” that reverb-coated country sound just hits right. Every moment is a joy, and even the whimsical, Van Morrison-like howling at the end of “I Will Sing You Songs” doesn’t sound carried-away or unnecessary, but floats past easily like another row of cornfield as you drive on some rural Midwestern road.
What set My Morning Jacket apart from their folk/Americana contemporaries of the decade was their much more straightforward “rock” sound, at times evocative of classic rock staples that the Louisville natives likely grew up idolizing. This is especially clear on It Still Moves, where the group is unafraid to unleash that repetitive, bombastic riffing on “One Big Holiday,” or slowly build “Dancefloors” into a honky-tonk power jam complete with horns and twinkling piano. Songs are drawn out over the five minute mark, and Patrick Hallahan plays in 4/4 almost as much as Phil Rudd. Because of this, one might attempt to pin these guys as just a traditional rock throwback outfit or, as some critics have described them, a “southern rock band for the new millennium.” But as soon as you hear Jim James’ youthful howl and those soft, reverb soaked guitar melodies, it’s clear that there’s something much more emotional and genuine to their music. Yes, these guys are rock stars, but their songs are about being young and emotional and unafraid to dream big, naïve dreams that will probably never happen. It’s this kind of honest, emotionally dense style that not only sets The Jacket apart from their rock-n-roll heroes, but is also extremely representative of the music of this decade and the genre that we’ve come to call “indie.”

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