There’s so much new music coming out on a weekly basis that sometimes it can feel as though you’re treading water. There’s absolutely no way to listen to all of it (if you even wanted to), so it’s left to people like Robert Christgau, the Reverb dudes or the folks at Pitchfork to point you in the right direction.
All of the new music — and its instant accessibility via Torrent, iTunes or a stream — presents a problem for older tunes. If you’re bogged down with the new Washed Out and Dir En Gray, how are you going to find time for Leonard Cohen and Karen Dalton? Older music — even records released just a few years ago — are being marginalized at a rate that picks up steam daily. I have spoken with several bands that wholeheartedly believe that if they don’t produce new material almost yearly, they will be forgotten about.
Jon Pareles wrote an interesting piece for The New York TImes on the pros and cons of the “dematerializing” cloud a month and some change ago; for me, the inevitable prospect of everything available instantaneously is a frightening one. Sure, it might be nice to cue up Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” for a demanding party, but what will happen to an album like My Morning Jacket’s “It Still Moves”?
In late 2003, I was living in England and read about My Morning Jacket in a blurb in NME, the British music rag. I was intrigued and after hearing a few tracks online, had the local HMV record store special order me a copy of its new one, “It Still Moves.” It hit me, hard. Maybe because I was living abroad and it just sounded so American: fusions of alt-country and pure rock smacking the homesick lad in the face as he walked down the foggy streets. But, I think it was more than that: an epic and nearly perfect record, with a potent curve of action like a great novel. Speedy or slowed down, Jim James’ voice absolutely pierces from the opening tics of “Mahgeeta” all the way through the elegiac “One in the Same.” The colossality of it all sounds as if it was recorded in the belly of the Guggenheim Bilbao or the nave of St. Peter’s.
Surely, My Morning Jacket — who plays Red Rocks this Thursday — has other admirable recordings. “At Dawn,” which preceded “It Still Moves,” is an understated gem, a forging of MMJ’s sound. The conceptual “Z” from 2005 is still fun and this year’s “Circuital” fits well with the band’s canon, the songs a welcome addition to My Morning Jacket’s increasingly remarkable live show.
Still, “It Still Moves” is, as James sings on the album’s “Just One Thing,” “one thing that does it for me.” Listen to it this week, if you’re going to the show or, especially, if you’re not. It won’t take you back to the place I was at in 2003, but maybe if you spun it a few times back then, you’ll be reminded of a feeling or a place. That’s what the good ones do, right? Hopefully it’s one that won’t get lost in your — or any other —cloud.