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First impressions: Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God



I don’t know if Jim James is a religious man for certain – judging by some of his lyrics for My Morning Jacket and his solo album, I have a fairly strong hunch he’s a faithful Christian. If that is indeed the case, or even if it isn’t, Regions of Light and Sound of God is his gospel album.

Regions of Light sounds like an album made by a man who has seen the light and now views the world more clearly. It’s not a preachy album: references to God (and in one case, Allah), spirituality, devotion and such things are frequent but never so pervasive or overpowering that they’d fall into the realms of cringiness or cause allergies among atheists. Rather, it projects that feeling through sounding honestly joyous and heartfelt in its belief and love for everything in the world and beyond our realm. It has the feel of being born out of its creator having seen something supernaturally beautiful and wanting to share that experience with everyone. James projects that arguably even more through the music than the lyrics: this is an album of joy, love and wonder and every note acts as a channel for it.

Regions of Light and Sound of God suavely moves somewhere around My Morning Jacket’s less rock n roll moments, 70s soul, 80s AOR pop and introspective art rock. Funky grooves, layers upon layers of keyboards, gentle guitars and James’ passionate falsetto make up most of Regions’ sound world while the production actively avoids pinpointing any dates, sounding both nostalgically old-fashion and futuristically modern at the same time. There’s been some nods and references thrown around towards Destroyer‘s marvellous 80s-throwback Kaputt from a few years ago but while it and James’ creation share some same aesthetics, the retro influences on Regions never feel like conscious attempts to return to the past. The whole album flows with a very effortless grace that has no hidden intentions.

Most importantly, it’s a good album. While the music bears only slight similarities to My Morning Jacket, Regions still shares James himself with MMJ – which means the great songwriting and that same adorable charm and charisma he’s always had also show up here in a central role. The larger-than-life soul explosion “Know Til Now”, the album’s lead single, is the undeniable highlight point: an explosion of joy, colour and irresistable groove that brightens up the dullest day and stays in your head forever. The rest of the Regions’ songs aren’t as in-your-face obvious standouts but they form a perfectly flowing and incredibly rewarding stream of music that’s hard to stay away from. “Dear One” and “A New Life” tickle the catchy pop sensibilities while “Actress” and “Of the Mother Again” are sugar-sweet mid-tempo loveliness that sound smitten in love, and they all sound like lost classics made for late-night nostalgic classic radio shows. “State of the Art” is a slow-building but instantly arresting ideal opener, which almost unnoticably becomes one of the album’s major highlights simply because of how grandly it introduces the listener to the album.  The only slight jarring point is the “All Is Forgiven”/”God’s Love to Deliver” duo which closes the album in a more contemplative and surprisingly darker way, switching melodies for introspection and coming off starkly darker than and at odds with the rest of the album, even if they are a still enjoyable pair of songs. James’ voice ties up all of the album together and really brings all the songs further forward – he sounds like he’s in love with life and does his best to convince the listener of the same, he uses his falsetto frequently and with a killer precision and generally highlights just how great he is at being a frontman.

Regions of Light and Sound of God kicks off the new music year to a great start. While I never had doubts that it would be a stinker, it’s taken me by surprise just how good it actually is. While not a masterpiece, it’s a great example of an album that really lights up the day with its presence. It’s compellingly inviting and warm and that’s arguably its greatest quality over its song material – the album makes it irresistable to hit play over and over again just because the sound gives you such a good, fuzzy and in someways nostalgic feeling inside. My Morning Jacket fans should definitely give it a try if they haven’t already, but even people who haven’t been enamoured by the band could find something to love from James’ nine songs of praise for life and the possible higher powers that watch over it.

Know Til Now

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