Band of the Year: My Morning Jacket

By: Kayceman

My Morning Jacket by Autumn de Wilde
We are our parent's children, but we are not our parents. The generation gap we feel today has been exacerbated by the computer revolution, which birthed our text message, IM (instant message for those of you who haven't made the leap), e-communication lifestyle, which many of those born before the PC have failed to adopt. But beyond our ever-growing inability to interact as humans, we're one of the few generations in the history of America that will not enjoy a higher standard of living than our parents. While many cling to hope that Obama can save this country, the truth is as we step into 2009 we're staring down a barrel and there are bullets in the chamber. Our economy has collapsed, we're mired in a war costing us billions of dollars, and we're still dependant on the precious oil our enemies control. This is not the world we were promised, but it is the one we're inheriting.

We also happen to be the first generation to fully see through the veil of organized religion. When times are tough people turn to faith; they always have. Problem is, we watched the walls of the world's largest religion, Christianity, crumble from corruption and crimes inside the Catholic Church too heinous to consider while the second largest religion, Islam, became erroneously tied to fanatic, extreme violence. All around the world people are suffering in the name of religion, and those of us coming of age today have had enough. We aren't looking to scripture and we certainly have no time for hypocrisy handed down from atop a white horse. We're looking for something that connects us in real time, not learned through forced Sunday school traditions and stuffy synagogues we never wanted to attend in the first place. The old rules don't apply. We're searching for more; praying not for Christ's return but for a mass awakening. And like our most ancient ancestors did, many of us are looking to music. Just as cavemen slapped stones, Africans stretched animal hides to make drums and the Whirling Dervishes spun into ecstasy, music is in our bones and it very well may be the path to spirituality. As we close the book on 2008 we need something we can believe in, we need to go deeper and My Morning Jacket is taking us there. And that's why they're our Band of the Year.

Who makes my decisions? Who reads all your thoughts?
What makes us how we are?
Faith can't prove what science won't resolve
Kumbaya my lord, c'mon row your boat ashore
The river's long. It is cold. It chills the body but not the soul.

My Morning Jacket by Dave Vann
"Music to me is really spiritual. In my brain, music is kind of everything. Music is the glue that holds life together," says bandleader Jim James. "I've always been the kind of person that really believes in God or some kind of force, some kind of spirit, but I've never been able to put a name on it. So, to me, the most transcendental, beautifully religious moments I've ever had have been either listening to music with some close friends or playing music."

Filling your soul with sound isn't a new idea, just one that seems to be lost in the digital fog of our shared sensory overload. My Morning Jacket is breaking through that fog and they're doing it in a number of ways, but most often it comes in the form of a concert. MMJ's live shows have reached mythic proportions. Their albums are an invitation - a chance for audio observation and personal reflection, deep solitary journeys full of sonic headphone bliss - but it's live, in the concert halls-come-sanctuaries that fans are transformed into disciples.

"Music is a great vehicle for people to lose their minds and to get out of their normal thought bubble and just kind of escape time and space and just get into that vacuum, that blurry area where time doesn't exist anymore," says James. "For us, the live thing, the audience plays a huge role, because if we're playing somewhere and we feel like the audience isn't feeling it or something then it doesn't get that spiritual because it just turns into some tedious task. But, if the audience is really into it and the mood is right and the spirits are right, that's when I feel it becomes really religious, really spiritual, because the fever and the energy of the audience is coming at us and that makes us want to hit back harder. It's just such a crazy, unpredictable kind of energy thing going on."

It seems every time James and I discuss what people are reacting to inside his music we end up back at the spiritual/religious crossroads. It's not that he thinks he's special - far from it, he's very humble – but perhaps Jim James is just a bit more aware of his surroundings.

Jim James by Dino Perrucci
"I'm a big believer in, I don't know, spirits or ghosts is a simplistic way of putting it, but I feel like there are spirits that are around the Earth and if you're writing music, I feel like the best music is kind of brought to you by these forces or spirits" explains James. "And it's the same way with playing a live show. If we're in a place, I try to be respectful of the forces that are already there and the people that have been there before. I try to pray and we huddle up as a band, just to try to let the forces know that we're there with them and we hope that we can kind of join the forces that are there and have it be a good spiritual experience."

But it begs the question why? Why are tens of thousands of fans packing into venues across the globe to be part of this? Is it really because we've lost faith in mainstream religion?

"In a lot of ways organized religion is even more powerful than ever and it just makes me sad, because I've never been able to finalize my thinking on any of those lines because you just can't prove anything. It requires this big, huge leap of faith on the part of the participant to be involved in any of these religions, and it just seems like they do so much more damage than they do good. And they go against the basic principles of what the religion's supposed to be about," says James. "So, I think a lot of people, especially younger people, find that freedom and that boundless, no-boundaries-at-all feeling when they get into music, and they get moved by those forces. I feel like the best thing about church, if you go to a good church, is the music, the fever."

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