Listening to Kentucky quintet My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves feels like floating over vast fields of waving grain while being blinded by the strong rays of the South.
It’s a tiring voyage. Only the true faithful remain to the end of the album’s 75 minutes. But the songs are worth it, long-players that seamlessly slide from one arrangement to another and force their way through a wall of reverb to emerge in the clouds. Between the down-home guitar licks and soaring vocals, correlations to a more sophisticated Skynyrd aren’t too far off.
“Mahgeeta” opens with dreamy guitar interplay, before Jim James’ voice rides the song into space. It is one of the album’s highlights alongside “Golden,” which is carried through in large part to its wistful finger-picked lead and defeated vocals; and “I Will Sing You Songs,” a 9-minute wilting classic that drags the listener through its struggles and comes away stronger because of it.
The production is sure to be a complaint with many. If My Morning Jacket cleared the production values and emphasized the arrangements and vocals, It Still Moves might be the band’s defining moment. Still, the songs are strong enough to carry their weight, and on moments where the band breaks through the hazy atmosphere that pervades the record and comes correct, such as the opening pattern of “Golden,” things couldn’t get any better.