You have to realize, I went into it completely blind. It wasn’t a particularly fertile period for my music listening. Early 2000’s. All the old familiars were getting a little too old and familiar and all the indie blog stuff wasn’t really happening yet (for me anyway). I was back in the cities but with nary a penny to spare. So off the library for a little random flipping through the music collection (Walker in Uptown if you are curious…whoever bought there back in the day always seemed to know what my musical taste was and where I had some glaring gaps…not that I ever met the person).
“It Still Moves” caught my eye. I think I thought I might have heard of My Morning Jacket. Or at least it sounded like a band name I thought I knew or at least should have known. And of course, a stuffed bear on the cover was a good sign. So I grabbed it. And once it was in my cd player, it immediately grabbed me back.
“Sitting here with me and mine, all wrapped up in a bottle of wine.” What a perfect introduction to the album, to the band, to the whole shebang.
Southern fried country rock crossed with the beach boys by way of neil young in a silo, with just a little eno/cale weirdness thrown in the mix. “Mahgeetah” was such an unlikely to be accessible mash of influences but so so immediately likeable. I bet I had that song on repeat 4 or 5 times, before I even moved on to “Dancefloors.” And even though southern boogie jam band wasn’t exactly my thing, I’d have done the same thing with “Dancefloors, ” but I didn’t have far enough to drive. But there was just something in the jam and boogie piano (with some lonesome steel guitar aping swinging from verse to verse in the background) and Jim James’ silo reverb vocals that had me completely engaged. And then there was “Golden,” a loping throwback acoustic guitar driven ode to life on the road with a harmony filled chorus that kept me in the car running.
I was in love; delighted and entranced by my “discovery”. And that was just the first 3 songs!
What other wonders awaited? Well, suffice it to say, there isn’t a dud on “It Still Moves” ten years on, it still moves. For every skynyrd there is a crazy horse, a time to wail and a time to croon, epic solos, hard charging riffs, and delicate guitar picking. And that’s just “One Big Holiday.” Then there is the languid beauty of “I Will Sing You Songs,” repeatedly on the verge of falling apart, but picking up just enough momentum each time to see another chorus, before it finally gets a roll on down the hill. “Just don’t make it last any longer than it has to.”
“Easy Morning Rebel” still makes me smile. Still sounds like it could have been on a jukebox in the corner bar when I was a kid. And that riffing around the 3.40 mark building to the big guitar solo is so great. And I’m not really a guitar jam guy. Same for “Run Thru.” Just enough tension between the big guitars riffs and Yim’s wordless chorus to carry me through jams I wouldn’t have the patience to bear on any other sleeve.
Smart sequencing drives the album, never too deep into the jams, rockers give way to mid tempo tracks and the ballads aren’t afraid to rip (without getting too power ballad). And although it’s rare to have a song under 3 minutes (just one song is around 3 minutes and that one is over way too soon), the songs never feel too long. The musicianship, the arrangements, the singing and an armload of memorable melodies all around create enough variety within each track to keep length from ever being a repetitive burden. The longest songs just feel like a natural evolution of an idea instead of a hard forced journey for lengths sake, which is saying a lot for someone like me, who is a firm believer in the church of the 3 minute pop song. But those 71 minutes of “It Still Moves” fly by and I’m holding up on “One and the Same” even more than the band does, hoping to extend the visit just a little longer.
I knew I had stumbled upon a great band that day. I immediately began making plans for a road trip to test out the album. Because of course, although I could listen to the album in my place, music always sounds best on the road (scientifically proven) and I had a feeling, long since proven out, that My Morning Jacket albums are even more suited for long drives out in the middle of nowhere with only the occasional yard light sparking in the long dark of nothing.
PS: I don’t think “It Still Moves” is My Morning Jacket’s best album. And it doesn’t even have my favorite MMJ song on it. (and although my best all time moment with an album, any album, was with an MMJ album, it was not with this one), but it is and always will be my favorite MMJ AND one of my all-time favorite albums.