My Morning Jacket, Z (2005)

My Morning Jacket is a BIG band, by which I mean they have a BIG sound.  Boomy, full of reverb, spacious, the sort of thing that fills the room, a sound that benefits immensely from being played live in a large venue.  While I see increasingly fewer concerts in my post-40 years, they're one of the few (alongside Phish, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, maybe the Drive-By Truckers) that I will see fairly religiously when they're in town.

Z, their 4th album, is the first that really captures the breadth of the music (though the prior one, It Still Moves, is a solid piece of Americana-infused rock that comes close).  They had production help from John Leckie, who has worked with everyone from the Stone Roses to XTC to Radiohead, giving the album a sonic boost that would make it fit in comfortably alongside classic rock greats like the Who and Zeppelin -- maybe not stylistically, but in terms of not being afraid to put a little oomph in the atmospherics.  The album also adds keyboards more prominently than earlier albums, filling out the sound.

The album has a few straightforward rockers, like the catchy "What a Wonderful Man" and the wonderful "Off the Record," the latter starting with a great riff before later devolving into a Pink Floyd-esque spaced-out jam.  And then you've got the big, boomy slow-burners, songs like "It Beats For You" and "Gideon" and "Lay Low," all of which feel unhurried and dramatic, making them great live staples.

The buried treasure is the lengthy album-closer "Dondante," which builds from a quiet ballad to an epic jam (often stretched out to double length in concert). 

For all the benefits of hearing them live -- check out the following year's live album Okonokos for confirmation -- the album itself is still great, just turn it up loud and give it the space it needs.

Here's the video for "Off The Record":

And here's a live "Dondante" (and if this doesn't make you want to run out to see them live immediately, then we are clearly not living in the same universe):

 

Buy it on Amazon.

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