Evil Urges is surely going to blow minds. The question is, though, for better or for worse?
Due June 10 on ATO Records, Urges is the fifth album from the ever-evolving Louisville, Kentucky, act My Morning Jacket, and it finds them continuing down the same path they started on with their critically acclaimed 2005 record, Z.
"I feel like Z is the perfect bridge from what we were gradually doing before — and Z to [Evil Urges] is the perfect bridge between everything. ... On the first listen, there's a lot of variety in a lot of different places, but I think after repeated listens, hopefully the listener would understand the similarities more than the differences," frontman Jim James told MTV News.
And he's not kidding when he talks about the "variety" found on this record.
The first three tracks will immediately stun fans of MMJ with heavy funk beats and synths galore. The title track and "Highly Suspicious" also find James singing in his rarely heard super-high falsetto, all too reminiscent of Prince or the Bee Gees. It's jarring stuff, but like everything else on the record, it makes sense in the band's evolution and really adds a terrific new element to its repertoire.
After the opening tracks, the band enters "more familiar territory," as James put it, for the next good portion of the record. The falsetto, synths and big beats are suddenly replaced by James' typical (read: beautiful) crooning, steel-pedal guitar and plenty of country all around, while the band slowly and methodically mellows things out.
"I'm Amazed" is a classic MMJ Southern-rock guitar jam with plenty of guitar/piano interplay, while "Librarian" is a track as straightforward as they come, finding James in stripped-down singer/songwriter form, narrating and professing his secret love for the "sweetest little bookworm hidden underneath ... the sexiest librarian."
But the mellow middle of the record stands in sharp contrast to those first few tracks, which quickly begin to feel out of place as the record trudges on. That is until the end few rockers and the disco-y number "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream (Part 2)" take us full circle, kicking things back into the stratosphere and making even the middle of the record itself seem out of place.
Of the tracks, James said, "There's things that run through them. ... Even though a song doesn't necessarily sound the same, there's different themes and chord structures that pop up in a lot of them that you don't necessarily hear at first listen ... but as you listen to it more, you realize the interconnectedness within all the variety and different directions."
Recording in New York also changed the overall direction of the music, James said. "We kind of deliberately wanted to make it different from our previous environments, where it was more loose and stretched-out. We wanted the feeling of being under this thing to add a precision to it. ... I do feel like it was a hard record to make — the hardest record we've ever made. We did have a lot of fun in the conceiving of it, but in the making of it, it was work."
"We like to ask a lot, but we don't ask too much. I think we expect that from the listener," multi-instrumentalist Carl Broemel says of the record.
Evil Urges is an album that isn't easily digestible — even for the seasoned My Morning Jacket fan. And while much of the record is enjoyable if you compartmentalize it, as a whole it may take some getting used to.