My Morning Jacket's recording sessions for 2015's "The Waterfall" produced a flood of material, enough that the band toyed with releasing a triple album. Instead, after staying out on the road, they moved on. Leader Jim James released a handful of solo albums, and the rest of the band stayed busy — backing up Philly's Tim Showalter for Strand of Oaks' "Eraserland," among other things.
Now, five years downstream, we get "The Waterfall II," a gentler and less conflicted partner. The lyrics for the otherwise excellent first "Waterfall" — with its keening anthems and extended guitar jams — had traces of bitterness and cynicism. "The Waterfall II," on the other hand, is full of airy, unhurried songs about finding hope after being disillusioned.
Aside from the heavy stomp of "Wasted" and the funky groove of "Magic Bullet," the tone is comparatively subdued, but varied, from the Beach Boys orchestration of "Still Thinkin'" to the Bakersfield twang of "Climbing the Ladder" to the mountain folk of "Run It." Often, James lifts a melody toward heaven with his beautiful falsetto.
This album may have been in the can for five years, but it sounds fully realized and even timely. The ethereal "Spinning My Wheels," an ode to stasis, belongs on any Pandemix 2020 playlist.