It is as if Jim James sat alone in a cavernous room for a while, experimented with all the world’s distinct yet calming sounds, mixed them with wisdom and produced his debut solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God. On this album, the frontman of My Morning Jacket has carved his own path away from the band’s signature psychedelic rock and glides towards soulful, jazz-infused sounds and pastoral folk.
James played every instrument on Regions of Light and Sound of God and self-produced and engineered each track. The material and title of the album were inspired by Lynd Ward’s 1929 novel, God’s Man, which James said echoed his life in strange ways. James explained to Rolling Stone magazine that the book was a “beautiful illustration of what was happening in [his] own life.” With all this inspiration, it is natural that Regions of Light and Sound of God is both lyrically and instrumentally dense.
The album starts off slowly and quietly with “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U)” in which a solitary piano accompanies James’s hypnotic croon. “I use my state of the art / Technology / Now don’t you forget it / It ain’t using me,” James declares to a bluesy melody that’s infused with addictive guitar riffs. “Dear one you always pushed the boundaries of my soul / with life and love we finally gain control,” James’s eerie vocals declare to the keyboard rhythm. This song boasts the most powerful guitar riff on the album but the weak accompanying instruments leave it begging for a more intricate melody.
Instrumental interim “Explode” begins the seemingly beach-inspired tracks on the album and flows with the sound of birds into “Of the Mother Again”. This track will enchant with its ethereal electro melody, soulful bass line and jazzy drum beat. Regions of Light and Sound of God is cryptically written. “I thought I knew reality / But you betrayed it to be / lost in a fantasy,” James sings on “Actress”. The track is about mankind and the obsession with false idols.
With each track it seems as if another layer of James’s psyche is uncovered, ending with his innermost thoughts. For this reason, it is important to start at the beginning and concentrate on each sound or particular lyrics until the end if you are going to understand what he is saying. By the last track you may be questioning whether James tried too desperately to get his message across as the whispery vocals and haunting melody leave you questioning his sanity. Nevertheless, this album is not only daringly experimental but also thought-provoking.