My Morning Jacket — ‘The Waterfall 2’
THE GOOD: Kentucky indie rockers My Morning Jacket are back with their eighth.
THE BAD: Not really.
THE NITTY GRITTY: As you probably guessed from its title, “The Waterfall 2” was recorded during the same sessions as 2015’s “The Waterfall.” Guitarist/vocalist Jim James even told us back then that the band recorded more than enough material for two albums. Now the other stuff is finally here.
However, you can’t dismiss “W2” as a collection of leftovers. The record is its own self-contained unit, and the 10 tracks are as engaging as the 10 we received half a decade back. Keep in mind, there are no real surprises. “W2” is simply MMJ doing what it does best — direct indie rock with splashes of experimentation and varying tempos along the way.
“Climbing the Ladder” and “Feel You” are the pop songs. “Spinning My Wheels” and “Run It” give us softer, more introspective moments. “Wasted” punches up the guitars and lets the guys jam a little. All of it feels genuine.
BUY IT?: Yes.
Doves — ‘The Universal Want’
THE GOOD: British alt-rock band Doves reunites and gives us its fifth album (first in more than a decade).
THE BAD: “Want” is a welcome return and pleasant reminder that we missed these guys. However, it won’t change their commercial status here in the states. Doves will always be a beloved cult band.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After working on side projects and recharging its batteries, the band regrouped in 2018, played a few festivals and wrote new music. When it came time to record, all the members had a newfound respect for each other, and the whole creative process ran smoothly.
“Want” is an energized collection of what Doves does best: grand rock songs that take time building momentum, formed by rolling rhythms below and big melodies across the top. Tracks such as “I Will Not Hide” and “Cycle of Hurt” glide along effortlessly.
The album’s only issue is how Doves slips right back into an early 2000s comfort zone and rarely leaves it. Nostalgia as opposed to progression reigns supreme.
BUY IT?: Sure.
Travis — ‘10 Songs’
THE GOOD: Scottish band Travis comes back with its ninth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It doesn’t get more basic than this. “10 Songs” is, yes, 10 slices of guitar-based indie pop with vibes ranging from the gently rolling (“All Fall Down”) to the abrasive (“Valentine”). Lead vocalist Fran Healy once again enjoys the role of principal songwriter, bringing the band back to its romantic-leaning roots. The album doesn’t exactly swim in pretention or politics.
This is the turn-of-the-century Travis that always did the breezy indie Coldplay thing better than Coldplay itself (these guys came first anyway). Whether it’s the forward moving “Waving at the Window” or the more graceful “Nina’s Song,” melody and mood are key here. And the group gets it right time and time again.
Then you have the Healy and Susanna Hoffs (Bangles) post breakup duet “The Only Thing.” (“You are the record in the record shop/Nobody wants to buy.”) That’s the icing on the cake making the entire affair extra tasty.
BUY IT?: Yes.