In his work with Monsters of Folk and on all the varietal Yim Yames tracks, its easy to hear that Jim James has a “small music” streak in him when he’s not fronting arena jammers My Morning Jacket.
And make no mistake: there are what I’d call “jams” still on “Regions of Light and Sound of God,” with keen, rolling guitar lines and long instrumental sections. This solo set contains more hooks and melodic pop ideas tucked in the back pocket of James’ jeans, flourishing with the help of horns and sampled drums. Pushed to the front is James’ delicate alto, as opposed to his full-throated tenor, dreamily looping through left-of-center world rock like “All Is Forgiven” and time-travel funks like awesome opener “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.).”
At times he channels George Harrison to cool, wallpapery, new-age effect. The close-eyed groove of “Dear One” and acoustic hybrid “A New Life” feel amicably retro, in its lyrics of “babes” and “stardust” and “daily every minute your possession of my mind / ticking synchronicty of time.” Other times, he’s chopped up his pop-folk motifs and re-assembled them into a similar sonic magic that the Dirty Projectors have (here’s looking at you “Of The Mother Again”). Conceptually, it’s “inspired by life and the novel in woodcuts ‘God’s Man’ by Lynd Ward.” Sonically, it’s an earful.
“Regions of Light and Sound of God” is progress for James, with nuanced and progressive performances all over its, well, regions. Not every song will captivate the listener, but maybe that’s the secret to relaxing and enjoying James’ little mists and mystics.