My Morning Jacket, Z (2005)
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.