Based on the title and cover, I presumed this collection wouldn’t interest me at all, figuring it’s either 1) a spacy, ambient DJ mix that sounds like drifting clouds or paint drying, or 2) it’s a super pretentious indie dude with a guitar and a dream journal and skin like a bioluminescent fish from spending too much time in his basement studio. (Since there’s no time to listen to every new release—and I prefer not to read reviews until after I’ve written my own—an educated guess must occasionally suffice as to whether to press play or not.)
Luckily, I caught Mr. James performing one of his songs on TV. Before he entered, the host reminded me of two things. Firstly, the gentleman has previously released music under the name Yim Yames — a nom de chanson I wish he had kept since for live appearances it would always sound like he was being introduced by the Swedish Chef (“Yorn desh born der Yim Yames! Bork, bork, bork!). Secondly, Jim is the lead singer and driving force behind My Morning Jacket, a well-known and critically acclaimed band formed in 1998.
My Morning Jacket began as an alt-country, rock band drenched in reverb and partially indebted to Neil Young, but over time they began absorbing other styles and morphed into something altogether weirder. I normally love their kind of weird, but unfortunately stopped paying attention after their first 3 albums, apparently to my detriment, because somewhere along the way Jim James picked up a falsetto and a groove. Mr. Funkypants still uses reverb on his vocals—although not as much—but the music sounds very upfront and immediate, with a spaciousness created by the mix and the streamlined production. It’s experimental, but with a warm, beating heart.
An album about belief and spirituality, about duality and humanity, Regions Of Light And Sound Of God is a descendant of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass—James recorded an EP of six Harrison songs which came out in 2009—another album about looking within and without, as well as above and below, in a quest to discover what it’s all about.
Jim James is a seeker, but with his official solo debut, he follows Casey Kasem’s dictum and keeps his feet on the ground, while at the same time, reaching for the stars.