|One of this generation's finest vocalists, Jim James, is stepping out from the collaborative curtains of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk to explore the one-man band world of the solo artist. James' voice is always ethereal and often swimming in reverb, while those elements don't change much here on his first solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God, his melodious voice is more front and center than on his past band efforts. He also plays every instrument on the album, which gives the sound an intimate, "crafted in the studio" vibe as opposed to a loose jammy kinda thing. The results are beautiful.
The album is based on 80-year-old book of woodcut art called A God's Man. The story is, according to NPR, about an artist's redemption and struggles with personal demons. This is the perfect lyrical subject matter for a psychedelic beard-o journeyman like James. Musically his album touches upon and nicely mixes everything from acoustic strummers to new age pop to ornate soft rock. Sonically, its almost like how The Flaming Lips would sound if they scaled back from cosmic opera to woodsy-tripping soul grooves. Overall the sound is delicate, but songs like "All is Forgiven" do find their strutting rhythms. Mostly, Jim James aims at the Heaven's with songs composed of moonlight.
I'm reminded of John Lennon, Brian Wilson, and other classic "pop-searchers" on this set. Songwriters who tried to reconcile their place amongst the trials of the modern world and how spirituality and creativity could coexist both in their own personal lives and those of the broader public who listen to the music they write. These are big questions explored on a small, yet very complete canvas. Fans of Jim James will be impressed with this album and hopefully this will become the kind of record that is cherished. I fear that it might be missed by the larger world of popular media, but we who do hear the album should be ecstatic that songwriters continue to seek out musical answers to the most difficult questions a human can ask of existence.