I've been a fan of My Morning Jacket ever since I saw them open for Guided By Voices back in 2002. Something about the combination of country, space rock, and southern twang really blew me away, even though I was there to see a headliner with a sixty-song set of two-minute pop rock jams.
I've followed MMJ's recorded output since that day while poking around with some of their early material as well. It's still a toss-up between It Still Moves and Z for me with my absolute favorite as both records are pretty different from one another. I don't know where I'd place this year's Evil Urges yet, as I wanted to address something about this record.
For understandable reasons, Evil Urges has been characterized by longtime fans and critics as an experiment gone wrong. A couple of songs early into the record are vastly removed from anything the band has ever done before. The atonal, R&B stomp of "Highly Suspicious" is probably the biggest offender. And it's track three on a fourteen-track album. No wonder it's overshadowed the rest of the record for a lot of people.
I have a recommendation: since we live in a world where, if we don't like an entire album on MP3, we can just simply delete the whole thing from our hard drive. Instead of completely abandoning a great band because of a different and disjointed record, why not make a non-disjointed record out of the fourteen tracks by trimming a few songs off the tracklist?
To me, "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Part 1" and "Highly Suspicious" are like two B-sides that, instead of being placed at the end of the album as bonus tracks for a future re-release, are placed right up in the frontline. Jumping from track one, the title track, to track four, "I'm Amazed," feels like a smooth transition. From then on out, it's pretty smooth sailing.
Listening to this abbreviated playlist, I hear an album that feels more influenced by 70s AM pop rather than 70s classic rock, and I mean that in the best of ways. The melodies jump right to the point and the song structures are rather basic. Poppy melodies are at the center instead of bendy guitar leads this time out. So, in those ways, Evil Urges sounds like the very logical follow-up to Z.
Yet it's like the damage has been done for certain fans. For those that don't want to try out this experiment, I say check out Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut on Sub Pop. It's a pretty gorgeous record, but there are several instances where I think, "Did My Morning Jacket record this a few years ago, scrap this, and some indie rock Maurice Starr assemble a group of young'uns to promote this?"