I was at the front door of my local record store 15 minutes before it opened. On February 5th, the new Jim James (formerly known as Yim Yames) of My Morning Jacket released his new album Regions of Light and Sound of God. Typically I’m never at the release of something new. But today caused me to be abnormal or maybe normal; there was a scavenger hunt for a signed version of Jim James’ album and I was going to find it. It was hidden in with the rest of the albums within the store, and the owner gave us a hint. Oh, and there was only me, my mom, and the two guys who walked in 5 minutes after they opened. I ‘knew’ it was hidden in the gospel section, thumbed through it twice, and left that genre stumped as to where it could be.
Needless to say, I didn’t get it. One of the guys walked over there to the gospel section and picked it right up after searching every where else. I was upset for being so blind. So, I grabbed a regular LP and checked out. That guy probably doesn’t even know who Jim James is! Or at least he wasn’t as big of a fan.
Anyway, I waited to listen to the album until I could hear on on LP, even though it was available to listen online for free before its release. It was one afternoon while I had some downtime between meeting friends and family. I had an idea as to what it was going to sound like. The record did not sound at all like what I envisioned. Maybe I was thinking there was going to be more country. The record is hard to put words to. Kind of like when Jim says he wants it to sounds ‘grey and purple in the clouds’. No one understands it until someone else says, “do you mean a Bdim7 chord?” (as in this Q&A Rolling Stone article).
This record I think is best listened alone or with one other person, on a quiet evening chilling out. I think it probably accurately shows Jim’s thought process and how much he thinks in a philosophical way. Jim was influenced by the book “Gods’ Man” written by Lynd Ward in 1929, which is a story told by a series of artistic woodcuts.
#1. State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U)
This song…is about our cracked up modern world. The cycle of daily living determined by the rising and setting of the sun, the day in day out repetition. When there is the decision to bring life into the world, it’s forever. Your signature in making it happen is done with blood, the bearer of life. Life now is bombarded by media, electric gadgets, and how it’s really improving how we live. How much can our lives be improved by these technologies? It’s actually a paradox, all the craziness and fast paced way of life makes us forget the cycle of living. Once we discover what it means to live without these ‘state of the arts’, and releasing struggle, our heart begins to beat with purpose. Trying to battle the struggle is like being in the stormy ocean with a little boat. Our purpose is found in the witness of nature making its way in life. That is simply making a home and looking forward to the necessities nature brings. At the end, the song begins to include moments of silence to indicate the power is going out, meaning he’s letting go of the struggle. Even without anything, we have all that we need. If you listen closely to the track, you can hear the reel in which Jim is recording the song, notably in the beginning. You can also hear the machine being overwhelmed by the vibration on some of his words. As far as where the A.E.I.O.U fits in, all I can think of is that is referring to the fundamentals of life, since vowels are the fundamentals of language.
#2. Know Til Now
The rhythm of this track is super sweet. In the beginning, my hips and swinging down a runway in a fashion show near the beach. The as the rhythm morphs, the scene changes to visions of my tennis shoes sliding against a wood dance floor with ambition. I think the lyrics are about how our thoughts are so pure when we’re in a feeling of bliss. It’s a moment when we feel like we have figured something out and everything is exact. Those are the moments that impacts our life and leads to effulgent ideas. The music themes and lyrics are in coordination with the thought process in which these moments happen. We get ‘monkey mind’ and think, “why didn’t I know?” (slow, silent, disjuncture remembering the struggle) to thinking how sweet this feeling is (groove), then back to “why didn’t I know what I know now?”. The part of the song before the saxophone solo reminds me of a My Morning Jacket Song, “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt. 2”.
#3. Dear One
The beginning of this song reminds me of some Philip Glass rhythms in the movie “Koyaanissqatsi“, indicating time, flow, and synchronicity. The song is about all the soul mates that come into our lives. There is a mission taking place each time we meet one of these soul mates. Usually, these people come into our lives, pushing us, to make us learn something and go beyond the boundaries we have set ourselves to. These people come to us as blessings as long as your perception wants to see it that way. But it’s up to us to know what to do, or else we don’t learn. It’s also about the soul mate that we chose to spend a good portion of our life with. If you like it, don’t play a game, just get it. The buzzing guitar sounds like the electricity that happens when you found that dear one you think about all the time.
#4. A New Life
This song, I suppose is pretty obvious, unless there’s a big hidden meaning. It’s a serenade about someone who wants to clear the past and wants something new, specifically with a specific someone. My favorite line in this one is about stardust. This song seems to be the star of the album since it’s getting more publicity. Watch its official video here on Pitchfork.tv
This song is the climax of the record, just like there is a climax in a story.
This track is all instrumental. It’s a short tune with some orchestral sounds. I think this is like the piece that is played in an opera after intermission. It’s like a warm up to the rest of the story, or the second act.
#6. Of the Mother Again
This song begins with chirping birds. I think this part is where the curtain is coming back up in the play and the second act begins. It’s an upbeat tune with some pop guitar (love) and beats. This is a similar theme to the first track of the album. our life is always in a cycle whether it’s good or bad. If something bad is going on, we can count that it will eventually change. If something is going good, we can count it on it changing too. You will look back on it and it felt like whatever it was, it was just a brief moment, no matter what it was and how long it took. Once we feel like we’re on track, our spirit feels most at home, in that humbleness. It really is nice to be on the good hand of the deal and in sync with time and the earth. We’re always on the search of this, which is most valuable like gold.
The actress is about the temptress who knows how to put on a good show. Not everything you see at first is what eventually comes to show, once distress comes and it’s hard to keep up the act, with flashiness, sex appeal, giddyness, all that crap. One will appear they are part of the crowd, they’ll lure you in and make you believe you’re part of that crowd too. She’s a legend in which everyone knows who she is, all who also believe in her myth. This song and the last one are pretty programmatic. Eventually she’ll break herself free from you. Either by leaving before revealing her show, or clamping on like a damsel once you figure out her deal. Sometimes you just don’t want to see the truth, whether it is good or bad, then end up disappointed.
#8. All Is Forgiven
I love the beginning of this piece. I think it’s an organ or a synthesizer which begins it. It’s very mono drone like a hymn (especially those of the olden days), especially with those half step descentions. Very ideal, because this song is about being accepted for forgiveness and repentance. It’s also about begging to god which path to take, what is the meaning of my life and which way do I go? I am lost, pleading, praying, calling for guidance. The dark night of the soul which coordinates with the dissonance of the song and choral sounding chorus which reminds us of church and American Gothic. I think this song needed an oboe instead of a saxophone.
#9. Gods Love
This song is an extension from the last one, most notably through the sounds of the synthesizer, and saxophone. This song is about the love that flows from god, the earth. The messages of love that we have received throughout time from historical figures and objects carry on throughout time. His message is that we are constantly on the search for love, or to feel good. When really, when you give up the search it will find you, because it is always right on the inside. This song reminds me of his George Harrison tribute album.
Thank you to Jim who created this record and to all those assisted him. (Especially to Ben Sollee and Emily Hagihara who were fellow musicians when I was studying music in school).
One thought on “Jim James: Regions of Light and Sound of God”
I can’t wait to listen to the whole album.