Album Review - Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God (February 5, 2013 on ATO Records)
In 2008, Jim James received a pretty serious head injury after he fell off the stage at a My Morning Jacket show in Iowa City. Instead of staying down, Jim got back on his feet soon after the incident. In 2009, Jim released Tribute To, a small collection of George Harrison covers while being active with Monster of Folk. In 2011, My Morning Jacket released their Circuital album and also played a part in Muppets: The Green Album that same year. Needless to say, Jim has proven his relentless passion for the creative process of collaboration when it comes to music-making.
Which is why news of a full-length album under his name turned some heads, especially since it would be one of the first releases of 2013. The album is what many of us yearn for (realistically) with the onset of a new year: not a fresh start but a refreshing one. The wanderlust star of MMJ is still himself; the album is not a crusade to reinvent his sound. One can see that the exploration of sound has always been a guiding force in his musical process. What makes this solo project, Regions of Light and Sound of God, so refreshing is that we’re hearing Jim James delve into himself as the sole force of creation and emerging as a witness forever entangled in the human experience.
Regions of Light and Sound of God doesn’t ‘drop’ so much as it subtly sucks you into the world that Jim James has found when “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” takes its hold. You don’t know what’s going on exactly when it first starts as Jim’s voice shimmers over the lines “Daylight come / Daylight go / How far will it reach? / Ain’t nobody know”. It feels like emerging from a vivid dream until the soulful groove reels you back in. It’s a devilishly addicting experience, albeit one that seems brief, to see how Jim James crafts each song to take you on a pleasantly surprising journey as the album progresses. A fundamental sense of flow ties it all together, while still keeping you on your toes.
From “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U)” through “Know Til Now” to “Dear One”, the album emerges from the depths of the innermost cave to a place where light and soul intermingle with each other in the form of warm analogue synths, jazzy bass riffs, blended piano/marimba, and puzzle-pieced percussion. “A New Life” and “Exploding” breach into somewhat My Morning Jacket territory without it quite being MMJ, still keeping the revealing-but-not-quite-so-naked-because-it’s-still-a-well-produced-album feel to it.
Then the album starts to navigate its way back to a realm similar to where it first started. My personal favourite, hands down, is “All Is Forgiven”. It reminds me of that killer suave jam sequence that pops out of nowhere near the end of “Know Til Now”. Hearing Jim sing “All Is Forgiven” over and over again sends chills down my spine as the saxophone-like synth holds down the fort for the song’s vibe. It’s probably one of the more overlooked songs on the album, but one that beautifully captures Jim’s restless soul. The album starts strong and ends in a beautiful way while having a middle section that is pleasantly out of place. It’s the journey that makes this album shine through, and it definitely makes one look forward to what else this year has to offer.