My Morning Jacket, "The Waterfall" (Capitol)
The hum of an everyday mysticism has always been part of the deal for My Morning Jacket, but it resonates louder than usual on "The Waterfall." Don't mistake it for a problem. All those lyrics about openness, flow, mind-body dualism — they suit this band perfectly, along with cavernous reverb and heavy-foot midrange tempos.
This is My Morning Jacket's seventh studio album, and a consolidation of its strengths. Some of these tracks, like "Compound Fracture," evoke 1970s commercial rock. Other tracks, like "Spring (Among the Living)," feel designed for maximum liftoff on big stages.
Given that frontman Jim James is the principal source of earnest wonderment in the band, it's startling to come across "Get the Point," a polite-but-firm breakup song, and "Big Decisions," in which he exasperatedly sings, "I don't quite feel like faking it again tonight." And the album closes with "Only Memories Remain," a bittersweet ballad in the style of George Harrison. It's a relationship elegy, but also a fond remembrance, and a reminder that love, too, should be a leap of faith.
NATE CHINEN, New York Times
Best Coast, "California Nights" (Harvest)
The duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno move further toward mastering the California beach-music vibe on their third studio album. They do so not by celebrating carefree romps along Pacific Coast Highway, though, but by inverting the Beach Boys' fun-fun-fun narrative.
With its catchy but distorted opening riffs, album-opener "Feeling OK" may seem like an ode to takin' it easy, except that when Cosentino sings the phrase, she doesn't sound so convinced. The title track shimmers with jangle-distorted guitar that screams sunshine, until Cosentino delivers her lines: "I stay high all the time just to get by." Still, she's not the most lyrically dexterous writer. Most of her lines follow a similar singsong cadence, and her rhymes often feel telegraphed. But she's an expert at feel and exploring an emotion or idea while guitars swirl around it.
Even more so than on its previous records, Best Coast on "California Nights" uses distortion as a tool to infect danger into standard pop structures. Classic Brill Building girders support songs like "Heaven Sent" and the Phil Spector-esque closer "Wasted Time" with earthquake-resistant permanence. In a perfect world, these would jump to the top of the singles chart. But, as Cosentino will be the first to tell you, that's not the one we live in.
Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times