Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound (album) (V2)

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Fifteen years and six studio albums with the band My Morning Jacket, singer, songwriter and guitarist Jim James has certainly earned his reputation as an accomplished musician in one the world’s most respected rock bands. ‘Regions of Light and Sound of God’ is his first solo album and like the first single “I Didn’t know Til Now“, which surfaced (read our review) in November 2012, it will blow away any and all expectation you may have of the My Morning Jacket frontman.

The nine-song album defies easy categorization. It opens with “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)”, a piano and vocal driven number flavoured with a Beatles meets 70’s piano-bar singer-songwriter vibe, which incrementally increases in pace and funk. Expanding upon the 70’s vibes and funk hinted at during the opening track, “I Didn’t know Til Now” follows.  With its vintage instrumentation, production technique, and James’ vocal enunciation, the album’s first single is a brilliant mesh of old-school R&B and disco fusing funky bass, danceable rhythms, vintage synths, and soulful vocals.

Both “Dear One” and the acoustic driven second single “A New Life”, which summons the spirit of Roy Orbison, are both gorgeous heartfelt numbers in their own unique way.

Firmly interwoven into the songs is a layer of ambient field-recording type atmospherics that add an odd, otherworldly and spacey dimension to the songs. The arrangements too are complex and journeying, often taking the listener on a hypnotic ride. Although later My Morning Jacket material has seen the band expand their country and rock roots to incorporate a huge range of styles and influences including 70′s pyschadelia and prog-rock, nobody could have known that Jim James was capable such funk and such cinematic vision.

As the press release so rightly states “solo albums by members of bands, especially lead singers, can often be scattershot, collections of odds and ends built up over the years with no true sense of purpose. But Regions of Light and Sound of God is precisely the opposite—the clarity with which Jim James came into this album rings from first note to last”.

Album highlight “Actress” is a brilliant R&B inspired gem that somehow pieces together Al Green with hints of The Beatles. Meanwhlle the final two songs on the album take things to (yet) another level with the addition of almost carnatic music accents. The horn-led “All Is Forgiven” and the psychedelic “God’s Love To Deliver” both heavy-up the atmosphere with their dense, rich, and vintage sounds while remaining ever soulful concluding a most impressive album.

The press release notes there was one specific source of inspiration that shaped many of the songs and that was a graphic novel from 1929 called ‘God’s Man’ written by Lynd Ward. The book chronicles an artist’s struggle with temptation and corruption, along with finding true love and James was inspired to write music that could accompany the book.

In what is likely to be one of the Sound Advice favourites for 2013, ‘Regions of Light and Sound’ is an immensely enjoyable album and unlike anything else you’re likely to find this year. The album is out tomorrow, 5 February, 2013, through V2.

Update 20 February 2013: Jim James has just launched the video for “A New Life”. Watch below:

Watch the video for” I Didn’t Know Til Now” below:

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