Jim James - Uniform Distortion - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jim James - Uniform Distortion

by James Weiskittel Rating:9 Release Date:2018-06-29
Jim James - Uniform Distorion
Jim James - Uniform Distorion

Over the course of his prolific recording career, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James has managed to lead the southern-tinged-indie-rockers on quite the musical odyssey.  But as releases from the former became fewer and farther between, the venerable frontman decided to give the whole ‘solo’ thing a go. And on his third album, the co-self-produced (along with Kevin Ratterman at Louisville’s La La Land studio) Uniform Distortion, James delivers what just might be his strongest release (Jacket included) in a decade.

Inspired by a stated desire to find a way to take a step back from the overwhelming technology of the world today, and instead, ‘just focus on real life’, much of Uniform Distortion feels like a deliberate attempt to get back to basics, a move that clearly pays off.  Catchy lead-work and a solid, stadium-stomp beat set the stage for the album-opening “Just A Fool”.  The song finds the singer swimming in contemplative waters as he opens the record singing “here I stand, going through the motions with a mic in my hand, playing hard to get, pretending like I understand.”

While much of Uniform Distortion finds James predictably channeling his inner singer-songwriter (“Throwback” is a nice slice of vintage Springsteen while “No Secrets” evokes strong shades of Zuma-era Young), it’s worth noting that barn-burners like “You Get To Rome” and “Yes To Everything” rock just about as hard as anything the man has done with My Morning Jacket.

Uniform Distortion is imbued with a sense of balance; moodier numbers are separated by upbeat romps and fuzz-laden riffs.  And James manages to sustain a sense of momentum all the way through the album’s final salvo - there’s literally nothing here that overstays its welcome.  “Over and Over” is an impressive slice of fuzzed-out pop, while the pensive, Elvis-tinged “Too Good To Be True” is a gem of an album-closer, showing off James’ underappreciated abilities as a vocalist.

Production-wise, Uniform Distortion falls in line with much of James’ previous work, as the record is awash in throw-back tones and heavy-handed reverb.  It’s a well-established aesthetic that works well with James’ songs, regardless of the musical vehicle he chooses for delivery.

As with any of his solo releases, the double-edged sword for My Morning Jacket fans is that Uniform Distortion essentially represents an open-ended delay for the promised follow-up to 2015’s Waterfall.  That being said, the record is one of James’ best, and truth be told, if the album sleeve said 'My Morning Jacket' on the front, it would easily rank up there with the band's best work. 

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