After a couple albums’ worth of ever-increasingly ambitious work with his band My Morning Jacket, the first proper solo release from Jim James is scaled-back, plaintive and extremely focused. Regions of Light and Sound of God, out on February 5th, most directly recalls the haunting, mysterious tones of MMJ’s 2005 release Z, but with a definite introspective vibe. The album premiered last night on NPR Music’s First Listen series, and NPR’s Stephen Thompson said James “always liked to let his voice sound as if it’s echoing into the void, but here, his attention seems to face inward instead of heavenward.”
Regions of Light and Sound of God doesn’t want for thematic ambition: It finds James unselfconsciously name-dropping both God and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Still, the album is at its best when James seems content to articulate the tender musings of a lonely mind. For all his grandiose ambitions, smallness suits him.