When you grow up in Greater Louisville, you're used to a lame music scene. Most artists opt out of visiting the area, deciding that Newport, Indianapolis, and Chicago are more worth their time. A solid band rising from the area is even rarer, which is a bit of a paradox considering the artsy scene of Bardstown Road, which is devoid of the typical Kentucky stereotypes. In a way (albeit a small one), My Morning Jacket put the Derby City back on the map with their 2003 release It Still Moves, and its much-praised single, "One Big Holiday".
Two years have now passed as the band readies for the release of Z. Although the southern rock aspects are held in check this time around, don't think that these guys forgot how to jam. The closing track, "Dondante", builds into a frenzied guitar attack before softly fading into the finish. Three other tracks clock in at over five minutes, displaying their instrumental virtuosity without coming across as pompous.
As far as the vocal delivery, what can you about Jim James? This man knows how to howl. His voice takes off from the very first track, making "Wordless Chorus" one of the best numbers on the disk. When James breaks into his effects-laden falsetto, I can't help but think of him as an Appalachian version of Thom Yorke.
Although the music is great, the cover art might be even better. It Still Moves stood out on record shelves by featuring a snarling grizzly, perhaps indicative of the album's ferocious guitar attack. With Z, we're introduced to what appears to be three birds performing surgery on another. I'm not going to begin to try to interpret this, but one thing's for sure: it looks great tucked between my Nappy Roots and My Bloody Valentine cds. If you're looking for an original sound, this album is for you.