Pop/rock

My Morning Jacket, "Evil Urges" (ATO)

One of the best Southern rock bands of the past decade, MMJ traveled to New York City to record its fifth studio album (available Tuesday), a lyrically and musically rich contemplation of morals in modern times. Songwriter Jim James and his four bandmates make organic music that is as timeless as it is cutting-edge, as dream-weaving as it is gut-kicking, as richly expressive as it is delightfully detailed and richly diverse. The songwriter brings the issue of morals to the forefront right from the start on the slow-burning title track. MMJ matches its utopian visions with some fascinating musical backdrops. The rhythm section is air-tight, especially on the big beat of the slightly British-flavored "I'm Amazed." There are distinctive harmonies and strong melodies, notably on the simply gorgeous "Thank You Too" and the hypnotic, steel-draped "Look at You." James plays things straight on occasion, too, such as on his amusing, acoustic, lust-filled ode to the women of the quiet reading rooms, "Librarian." And "Two Halves" offers a Badfinger riff, doo-wop vocals and ruminations on the realities of aging. Fans of the band's harder side need not fret because there are several rockers, notably the grungy, big-noise blaster "Aluminum Park" and the psychedelic scorcher "Remnants." MMJ has made one of the most essential recordings of 2008. 5311

KEVIN O'HARE, NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Jakob Dylan, "Seeing Things" (Columbia)

On this predominantly acoustic affair, Bob Dylan's famous son keeps it light, turning in some impressive fare such as "Valley of the Low Sun," brighter, harmony-traced tales such as "Everybody Pays as They Go" and lyrically riveting songs including "War Is Kind." Produced by Rick Rubin with an understated approach, it's not a major solo debut that will make one want Dylan to skip out permanently on his longtime band, the Wallflowers, but it is a very respectable offering that proves that he can take the intensity level down and still deliver the goods. 5312

KEVIN O'HARE, NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE

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