Album Review: Jim James – Uniform Distortion

Most indie-rock fans are familiar with the name Jim James, as the front man of the critically-acclaimed band My Morning Jacket. James has released several solo records over the years and he’s cooked up a fresh new batch of 11 songs for his fans. We were at the private show at Rough Trade recently to hear these songs live for the first time, but here’s a more detailed review of the tracks in their final, studio release form.

The first song and single Just A Fool has every characteristic of a successfully catchy Jim James song. Short, distorted guitar phrases, check. Layered guitar solos/harmonies, check. Catchy lyrics and melody, check. The pace then picks up even more on You Get To Rome, which contains the upbeat, boisterous rock energy that we all know and love and expect out of Jim James.

Out Of Time begins with the consistent upbeat energy and tempo that began on the first two tracks. During the middle of the song, the rhythm and overall vibe take a psychedelic turn as the guitars begin to shred and the drum beat slows to a hypnotizing pace. Song four Throwback could easily have been on an early My Morning Jacket record because the chord progression and melody bring to mind the classic My Morning Jacket song structure and sound.

No Secrets – track five – begins with a mellow, minor chord melody that categorizes a certain darkness within its eerie tones. The song gains it’s power from deep, heavy effects both on the instruments as well as vocals. The upbeat, rocking crazy and familiar Jim James energy reappears on Yes To Everything. The bouncing, and dancy vibe on this song is sure to make it’s live performance one of the highlights of any future Jim James concert.

No Use Waiting is a true head-banger as the guitar melodies drive the pulse of the entire song immediately from the beginning notes. Although Jim is very well ranked within the indie singer/songwriter rock spectrum, his wild and extremely loud energy as a guitar player can bring him close to the edge of heavier rock (and almost metal) licks. All In Your Head – track eight – also contains a heavy rock guitar lick but overall contains the familiar Jim James / My Morning Jacket song structure and melody.

Better Late Than Never is the perfect example of why artists title some of their hidden gems as “deep tracks” and insert them at the end of the album order. The album title serves as the home landmark for fans who like to sing along, and the phrase is repeated constantly throughout which helps the audience connect and live within the song alongside Jim and the musicians performing with him. The next song Over And Over is another example of the simple songwriting structure and style that Jim James possesses. With memorable melodies and lyrics this makes the song another sing-along jam for fans.

The album ends on a slower, more mellow note with Too Good To Be True. Although the rest of the album is amplified with powerful rocking energy, ending on a slower note makes the audience want more of the exciting upbeat tunes. Jim James has released yet another album of rock gems and it will definitely be a contender for album of the year.

Scott J. Herman