My Morning Jacket takes its Southern-tinged rock?n?roll to new and exciting places on its fourth studio album, "Z." As previously reported, the 10-track set will be released Sept. 20 via ATO/RCA and was produced by John Leckie (Radiohead, New Order).
The addition of new members Carl Broemel (guitar) and Bo Koster (keyboards) has helped broaden the band?s sound, with more keyboards and overall sonic texture in the nooks and crannies than on 2003?s "It Still Moves." That set debuted at No. 2 on Billboard?s Heatseekers chart and has sold more than 127,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The album opens with the vintage keyboard bounce of the aptly named "Wordless Chorus," which immediately reintroduces frontman Jim James? reverb-drenched voice. "We are the innovators / they are the imitators," he sings, eventually rising to a full-on falsetto of "hoos" as the song concludes.
James reaches back for chill-inducing wordless vocalizations on the stellar space rocker "Gideon" and shines on the piano- and pedal steel guitar-tinged ballad "Knot Comes Loose."
The band works up a top-notch rock/reggae groove on "Off the Record," which morphs into a smoky, soul-driven instrumental interlude with shades of the Rolling Stones? "Can?t You Hear Me Knockin?," replete with backward vocal snippets.
A "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"-style organ and the sounds of children playing outside usher in the amusingly strange "Into the Woods," while the sparse seven-minute-plus closer "Dondante" builds to a tense climax that ends the album on a spooky note.
But MMJ saves room for several satisfying rockers, including the ripping, chipper "What a Wonderful Man" and "Anytime," both of which capture the power of the band?s live shows.
MMJ plays the third show of a five-date run with Wilco tonight (June 24) in Boston. New headlining dates have also been added tomorrow in Northampton, Mass., and Sunday in Burlington, Vt. A trip to Japan is being penciled in for late July, and James will play an Aug. 7 solo date as part of Rhode Island?s Newport Folk Festival.
Here is the track list for "Z":
"Wordless Chorus" "It Beats for You" "Gideon" "What a Wonderful Man" "Off the Record" "Into the Woods" "Anytime" "Lay Low" "Knot Comes Loose" "Dondante"