Review: Jim James’ new solo project is hazy and mature

Ryan Morris

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

Jim James, most well known as the front man and lead guitarist of the progressive rock band My Morning Jacket, is in the spotlight again with his recently released solo project titled “Regions of Light and Sound of God.”

The album gets its inspiration from a 1929 graphic novel called “God’s Man” by Lynd Ward, which “chronicles an artist’s struggle with temptation and corruption, along with finding true love,” according to a press release by James’ management.

 

The album title alone gives a clue as to what to expect – the name sounds light, dreamy and airy. James has said his goal was for the record to sound “like a hazy dream.”

Most of the tracks are smothered in plenty of reverb, which helps successfully accomplish this goal. However, even with what may sometimes come across as excessive amounts of reverb, the music is dense enough that its quality is still mature.

A conglomeration of jazz, blues and R&B contribute to the overall musical theme, which offers an interesting palate of rhythms, smooth melodies and colorful instrumental arrangements, including orchestral layering. The R&B bass lines are perfect for chill background or driving music.

Some of the vocals are scratchy and not crisp, but that’s part of this music’s charm; it has a live singer-songwriter meets Stereolab vibe to it.

In fact, most indie or folk music fans will appreciate this project because it highlights natural voice textures and the acoustic ambiance in which they were recorded, characteristics that may offer more intrigue than music that has been overly produced.

The closest this album gets to pop is with “A New Life,” a catchy love song that James recently performed on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

It begins with just acoustic guitar and vocals, eerily reminiscent of George Harrison, and slowly merges into a 1940s inspired doo-wop rhythm with elements of chimes and saxophone.

One gets the feeling that James experimented his way through the production and engineering of this project, but the music is still focused and meaningful.

The lyrics are poetic and imaginative, and the instrumentation is odd but playfully intriguing. At the same time, these elements may take time to get used to.

This is, perhaps, one of those albums that one grows to appreciate more over time. Once the intricacies of each tune become familiar, the listener will likely wonder why it took getting used to in the first place.

Rating: Three out of four stars.

Story: KATE DURHAM, Intern A&E Reporter