Music Reviews

Music Roundup 7/21/20

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We’re here to tell you what’s hot and what’s not on this week’s music roundup

music roundup Flock of Dimes

Flock of Dimes – LIKE SO MUCH DESIRE

Genre: Folk, Indie Pop

Favorite Tracks: “Again (For The First Time),” “When The Body Does Not”

The ebbs and flows of Jenn Wasner’s musical career never feel directly tethered to the project she’s working at any given time. The sonic line between Wye Oak and her solo work as Flock of Dimes has become blurry, the punchy synths and elevated pop of the latter crossing over into the former on releases like THE LOUDER I CALL, THE FASTER IT RUNS and TWEEN. Like the tides coming in, it in many ways makes sense, then, that LIKE SO MUCH DESIRE, her first non-single release in four years, would carry with it some of Wye Oak’s earliest works, a penchant for lush, haunting, near-singer-songwriter fare that focuses less on bright buoyant synthesizers and more on guitars and layers of Wasner’s beautiful vocals. Songs like “Again (For The First Time)” and “Spring In Winter” are devastating in their quiet, a quality that Wasner hasn’t tapped into as frequently with later, busier Wye Oak releases or the kaleidoscopic brightness of 2016’s IF YOU SEE ME, SAY YES, and it’s a welcome sound. That piercing simplicity is used to its fullest effect on the final two tracks, “When The Body Does Not” in particular among the finest songs Wasner’s ever penned. Her vocals on this track in particular are a cool temperament against fluttering orchestral textures, a defeated hurt littering between the notes. The one outlier here is the title track, which in its slow-motion gallop and bold production is more akin to THE LOUDER I CALL, THE FASTER IT RUNS, but a nonetheless welcome track that offers a bit of texture to these five outings. While I appreciated the dance backdrop with which IF YOU SEE ME, SAY YES presented itself (“Semaphore” especially is such a fully realized version of Wasner in this environment), I think what is being pursued on this latest EP is a direction that is far more ultimately appealing, although I’m sure these two musical approaches will inevitably meet in the middle as often seems to happen throughout her career. Wasner remains one of the greatest and most overlooked artists of this era and this latest EP does nothing to diminish that notion. [CJ Simonson]

music roundup The Waterfall II

My Morning Jacket – THE WATERFALL II

Genre: Psych Folk, Indie Rock

Favorite Tracks: “Feel You,” “Beautiful Love (Wasn’t Enough),” “The First Time”

THE WATERFALL was a defiant turn in the My Morning Jacket canon. It wasn’t one without its trace of warning; the airy, dreamlike haze of “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” retrospectively felt like the band navigating a new sound, and even the seven-minute title track on CIRCUITAL is perhaps where the spectacular arena rock jams of the band’s earlier work fully met the adventuring, heady journey they would later become. THE WATERFALL felt lived in, a drugged-out exploit where the music seemingly matched the magic of the final destination in a way that few modern albums have been able to sonically embody—perhaps a singular odyssey, perhaps a template for what was to come, but fully realized nonetheless. If “the waterfall” was a place, THE WATERFALL was My Morning Jacket pulling out a mostly new bag of tricks to get us there, trip-sitters guiding a front-to-back hike through their wilderness.

Perhaps by the very nature of its inception, THE WATERFALL II is a slightly less meaningful journey back, not without moments that are stunning beyond measure (“Feel You,” “The First Time”) but a different, ultimately less magical trek. At the time of its release, Jim James had indicated that a follow up to THE WATERFALL was imminent and then we proceeded to go four years without hearing from the band until the sequel was dropped in our laps. But these songs are from the same recording sessions and even if My Morning Jacket’s leftover drippings are better than most other bands, there is a lack of true, overt power to wherever the band is taking us this time. The longer, psychedelic mirages have mostly gone away, with songs like “Climbing The Latter,” “Run It,” and “Wasted” popping more as singular stomp-along rock songs than part of a larger hallucinatory voyage. Even the farty funk of “Magic Bullet” is more akin to something that would appear on EVIL URGES, a fun track that lacks a lot of meaning in whatever quasi-spiritual trek I personally think THE WATERFALL as a larger experience should be guiding us on. And perhaps that’s ultimately the issue here; if THE WATERFALL II was named anything else, I would quickly buy into what it has to offer, as My Morning Jacket remain one of the great American rock exports covering everything from humbled, aching folk music to intricate indie rock to massive, psychedelic arena spectacle with unprecedented urgency. But as is, this is a collection of songs I can’t fully buy into, at least not compared to the beauty and awe that’s on full display throughout THE WATERFALL. Like I touched on, the enchantment of traveling to the end destination is there in moments; “Feel You” is this massive, swelling build, grabbing the Flying V for some tasteful, nearly sensual guitar parts; “The First Time” is another slowly plodding blend of R&B and psychy folk and indie rock that is perhaps My Morning Jacket sounding their most essential in 2020. A true return to the highs of THE WATERFALL this is not, but a “good enough” from a band we haven’t heard from nearly enough the last half-decade will have to do. [CJ Simonson]

CJ Simonson
CJ Simonson is Merry-Go-Round's music editor. The only thing he knows for certain is that "I Can Feel The Fire" by Ronnie Wood is the greatest closing credits song never used in a Wes Anderson movie. Get on that, Wes.

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