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I’m late as always but Z is effing excellent

16/08/2010

My Morning Jacket released Z waaaay back in 2005 to some sort of acclaim, I’ve heard. It only entered my life this summer as I took it upon me to gather a bucketload of things I had never heard and allow them to grow on me as I spent my summer holiday. Z’s become one of my very favourites of that little summer project of mine.

But first, let’s talk about the cover.

Look at that cover. Rarely in my adventures have I come across an album cover as arresting as the one on top of Z. It’s one of those covers that become iconic at first glance, one of those which compells one who sees it to find out more about the album. It’s instantly recognisable as something yet brings forth so many completely different things. It’s like a children’s book. It’s like those age-old drawings of bizarre, mythical denizens of unexplored faraway lands. It’s like a scene from a dream; it’s like a scene from a fever dream. It makes very little sense yet it makes perfect sense. It’s surreal.

So does the music live up to the expectations of the cover?

Very well, actually. Much like the cover makes some sort of senseless sense, so does the music. Z’s music lacks the surreal tones but manages to be attractively quirky nonetheless. It’s not dreamy as we commonly understand the term but it’s like from a dream: instead of soft, textured atmosphere it’s a dream which feels normal until there’s that crucial one small moment which feels out of place, out of reality and reveals the true nature of things. It’s an album with direct rock riffages. It’s an album with an off-kilter waltz song that begins by stating how lovely burning kittens and babies in a blender sound. It makes no sense for anyone who’s anal about album cohesiveness and yet it makes perfect sense in its own little surreal realm, with its electronic twiddles, pseudo-reggaes and bouncy rockers.

Most importantly, the music turns out to be as arresting as the cover. Hypnotic, even. When the wordless chorus of “Wordless Chorus” and its splendour of voices breaks the stuttering beat of the beginning into a colourful kaleidoscope of joy so lovely that you could listen to it all day, the repetition value of the entire album gets an immense foreshadowing. And then they go and actually up the ante when the final chorus simply explodes on top of a double kick drum stagger. The entire album contains several moments of clear excellence that stick to head and haunt the mind until the only solution is simply to give another listen, from the guitar sparkles of “Gideon” to the serene peace of “Knot Comes Loose”. The album closes just as marvellously as it begins: “Dondante” inhabits a grand space and quietly whispers to the great echoes until it finally opens the floodgates and washes the listener with one final torrent of sound before the album falls into silence.

And then you hit play again because everything you heard continues to invade your mind until you do so. Z is exciting, Z is hypnotic. It’s one of those albums where you can tell the band had a clear vision what to do and a bucketload of inspiration to dwell into in order to reach that vision.


Wordless Chorus

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