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It Still Moves, but slowly

David Brackstone | Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Making the change from an indie label to something more mainstream can strain the creativity of any group. Fortunately for My Morning Jacket, their move to ATO (Dave Matthew’s label) for the release of It Still Moves seems to have been a perfect choice – and one that has allowed them to stay true to their creative roots.

ATO seems to have granted My Morning Jacket free reign in creation, giving singer/songwriter Jim James ample opportunity to fully realize his musical vision. Few other labels would have bestowed this much trust in a new addition, but allowing such an unhindered outlet for expression is in typical Dave fashion. Of course, this is not necessarily a good thing for those with a short attention span – the album’s 12 songs stretch out over a lengthy 72 minutes, giving each track an average length of six minutes (there are, in fact, only two songs that fail to surpass the five minute mark). For those not put off by its lengthy tracks, It Still Moves can be quite an experience, and when given a chance, it rarely seems as if any song is longer than absolutely necessary.

Imagine, if possible, the voice of Neil Young in its purest form – uncorrupted by years of smoking and drug use – combined with the feel of Radiohead’s The Bends. Pair that up with the haunting melodies of Sigur Rós and there exists the base of My Morning Jacket. To round out the sound, add The Band, Led Zeppelin, The Flaming Lips and Bob Dylan – then fly it all to Jamaica for a little lesson on the reggae beat. My Morning Jacket cannot be defined by any of these sounds alone and cannot be contained even by the synergy of all of them together.

“Mahgeetah” brings with it a hint of pop, “Easy Morning Rebel” a hint of country. “Masterplan” is a wailing jam, while “I Will Sing You Songs” is a slow-burning ballad. ‘Matrix’-like, being immersed in It Still Moves is like entering another dimension with 50 years of musical history swirling around, creating an always-changing landscape. No single facet can be clearly seen, and no single feature can be pinned down and followed, as the whole experience is awash with reverb. It Still Moves is not a musical venture one can dip into – one must dive in and fully embrace it.

This album cannot be listened to in a well-lit room; as the music begins to play, there is an urge to turn out the lights. Even as the songs move from melancholy to ecstatic, it seems unnatural that one could be listening anywhere other than a seedy bar. Like getting lost in a drink, listening makes it easy to let go.

In “Rollin Back,” James himself characterizes the experience best: “Just in the nick of time you got me … while I was sittin’ here / time, I don’t think I wasted it, it just seems to disappear / Sippin’ the wine you got me.”

Contact David Brackstone at dbrackst@nd.edu