Music Review: Regions of Light and Sound of God

by

Music Review: Regions of Light and Sound of God
Image courtesy of publicradio.org

Image courtesy of publicradio.org


     It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a solo record can say more about the musician’s band than the musician him or herself. If that solo record is an unexpected collection of musical ideas you never heard him or her toy with when he or she was jamming with his/her buddies, then it says that band’s a straight-ahead unit, with a particular kind of combined sound that edges out the weirder influences that its separate components might bring to the studio. If the solo record’s bad or tired but the band’s good, that band is a greater-than-its’-parts-sum unit. And if the solo record is so goddamned brilliant that you can’t conceive of it, well, you may want to revisit the band’s back catalog and see if you missed something.


     Regions of Light and Sound of God is Jim James’ first solo record but kind of not really. James, best known as the angel-voiced frontman for Lousville’s My Morning Jacket, has put out a solo EP and a few collaborations under “Yim Yames,” and ROLASOG is unmistakeable James (hard J), though it’s also not far from an airier and spacier variation on MMJ’s recent material. While on a MMJ album you can consistently expect great and weird turns into country, rock, and straight-up psychedelia, ROLASOG strips away most of the rock sizzle in favor of layered keys and a polished atmosphere of slightly-less-reverb-is-more; opener “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U)” rides a piano riff swiped from Traffic and strings, and its lyrics maybe describe an uneasiness with technology but really, it’s not clear. And to be fair, on the first listen, ROLASOG comes across furtive and fragile, like Thom Yorke’s The Eraser with a fraction of the existential terror and not being made on a laptop. On a few repeats, though, it starts to cohere. Closest in sound to MMJ’s latest, the controlled but intense Circuital, ROLASOG is James’ further maturing expression of the sounds and ideas of roots music and rock’n’roll that spilled out of his earlier records in a torrent of reverb and guitar blaze. Now he’s almost 35 and those ideas bloom cleaner and clearer, and his voice is equally restrained but still in lovely form, plaintive and even approaching ghostly levels on the harmonies of “God's Love To Deliver,” which closes this album’s less-than-40 minutes with the lyric that “Our love has no equal/In your eyes and mine.”

404 Not Found
     A sweet sentiment from a sweet album, one which may seem either insubstantial or loose compared to the barnstorming genre twists of James’ other band, but which reveals one musical layer of that band stretched out and on display in a manner otherwise not yet seen. James hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down in the last decade, and even if this remains his single solo-record-but-not-really through his tenure with MMJ, it puts down another quite pleasing facet in the discography of one of the more exciting American bands of the last fifty years, of which James remains the primary songwriter; let’s eagerly see what comes next and enjoy the hell out of what already has.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

s2Member®