One of the advantages of recording more songs than you need for your album: You can put out a followup disc without having to lift a finger. That’s precisely what Jim James and My Morning Jacket have done with their surprise release The Waterfall II, a collection of leftover tracks from their 2015 album Waterfall (duh). But don’t think for a second that leftovers means lame, limp or lousy; numbers like the timely psychedelic ballad Spinning My Wheels, the spry country offering Climbing the Ladder, the canyonesque blues-rocker Wasted and the robotically funky Magic Bullet hold up to anything on their predecessor. Yet another advantage James and his bandmates have over the competition. Come on in. The water’s fine.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Back in late 2013, the members of My Morning Jacket arrived at Stinson Beach, a tiny Northern California town set right on the ocean and near the majestic Muir Woods. Massively inspired by their idyllic surroundings — and a sense of charmed isolation that frontman Jim James likened to “living on our own little moon” — the Kentucky-bred five-piece ended up creating over two dozen songs at the mountaintop studio known as Panoramic House. Though they flirted with the idea of putting out a double album, the band ultimately decided to lay aside a batch of songs and release the rest as The Waterfall: a 2015 full-length that later earned Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. After years of keeping the remaining songs stashed away, My Morning Jacket are now set to share The Waterfall II, a strangely timely continuation of a psychic and sonic journey begun long ago. As James reveals, the decision to unearth The Waterfall II was sparked from a bit of serendipity in the early days of self-quarantine. While out on a walk, he placed his music library on shuffle and soon stumbled upon Spinning My Wheels, a tender rumination on the struggle for presence, its lyrics confessing to feeling “hypnotized from doing the same old thing.” Struck by the song’s enduring relevance, James revisited the other tracks reserved from the Panoramic House sessions and found that they invited a welcome moment of self-reflection — an outcome perhaps even more perfectly suited to the chaos of the current day than the circumstances of their recording. Like its predecessor, The Waterfall II mines its mood of dreamy contemplation from certain heartbreak James had recently experienced, including the demise of a monumental relationship. Unfolding in a loosely threaded narrative of loss and recovery, the album conjures an indelible pain but never drifts into despair, gracefully conveying James’s message that “there is hope beyond the pain and loss, if you learn to flow with life like water.”