Best My Morning Jacket Albums

By Drewpac Drewpac
updated 5 days ago

My Morning Jacket is a hard band to define. Most often slotted into Alt Rock, Indie, Alt Country, and Psychedelic silos, in truth, they're just themselves. They build their own sound on a litany of influences, from Neil Young to Prince, from The Band to Roy Orbison..from Bob Marley, to Kermit the Frog. Its all in there (and much much more) if you listen closely enough. If you're just getting exposed to My Morning Jacket, use this list as a guide on where to start.

Understand, ALL of these albums are great. The wonderful thing about MMJ is that their music is so diverse, each record is a journey of its own. Many will break their career into two arcs, pre and post 'Z'.

Early MMJ was defined by the haunting, heavily reverb laden vocals produced by Jim James singing in corn silos. The music was much more 'alt country/americana/roots/folk' rock, although, they still knew how to throw down. (See any early MMJ concert if you doubt that). With 'Z' and every album since, the band has entered a more exploratory phase, with James' wandering exploration of himself and both his and the band's sound meandering on each album, even track at times. Although it hints were there in the early work, modern MMJ can bounce much more frequently into R&B/Soul, Funk, Psychedelic, and even pop sounds.

The results have produced perhaps one of the most diverse discology's in modern rock. The benefit for fans is that when they take the dive into My Morning Jacket, (wonderful) suprises abound at every corner, every new listen. Perhaps even better, it helps to make their legendary live shows such an event, with a wide variety of styles to choose from, even if it usually always ends with the epic 'One Big Holiday' from 'It Still Moves'.

Enjoy the list below. The good thing is there is no 'right' answer, and this list could change on a given day or mood, but it is a good starting point for new fans of the band.

  1. My Morning Jacket - Z

    11 For Sale from $18.90

    While the top spot is often debated, it usually comes down to 'Z' or 'It Still Moves'. 'Z' takes the top spot here as it is the most approachable album, which is backed up by the fact that this was the album that launched MMJ into the sphere of the greatest rock bands of the mid-00's.

    What do you want? Fun, poppy sounds? Wordless Chorus, Anytime, and Off the Record will do you. With all three coming with different sounds within that dynamic. Soaring Epics? Gideon channels the best of U2, and Lay Low sounds like an epic 70's band had a baby with a drum machine beat. Knot Comes Loose show a more romantic and intimate side of the band. And last but not least, Dondante, the sound James penned for a dear friend he lost to Suicide, is 11 minutes of pure emotion that makes any live show seem surreal. Its all there, and that's why 'Z' is the go to for any new listener to My Morning Jacket.

  2. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves

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    As previously noted, 'It Still Moves' is often the choice for top album by many an MMJ fan, for good reason. For those who feel in love with the band early on, it doesn't get any better. Additionally, if you're more inclined to like a more authentic, less studio driven sound, this is your album.

    The album produced four of the bands most enduring songs.

    Mageehta, penned as an ode to James guitar, is perhaps the cheeriest moment of any MMJ show, and sure to stick in your head for days.

    Golden followed James early style of amazing acoustic melodies, this time combined with a rolling beat that's perfect for any weekend drive.

    Steam Engine, a fan favorite, showed James spiritual side as he explored what he believes, and bookends the afformentioned Dondante as the long, emotional climax of any live show.

    And finally, you have 'One Big Holiday', the song about making it big....and the song indeed does. Typically the closer to any My Morning Jacket show, this song may not be their biggest chart hit, but it is their BIGGEST hit, in terms of sound.

    The remaining songs are all amazing in their own right, with no let downs on the album. Although, be aware at first listen, the album does require listeners to invest. As in most MMJ albums, the reward comes with consideration of the music, not cursory listens.

    **Worth noting is the debate between the original and the re-issue. Many original fans still cherish the original albums sound. James notes that the album was rushed in mixing and sounds like it had a 'wet blanket' on top of it. I personally prefer the cleaner sounds of the reissue, which includes some good additional bonus tracks, led by the astounding 'En La Ceremony'.

  3. My Morning Jacket - Okonokos

    21 For Sale from $47.49

    Once you've had a taste, its now time to get to what makes MMJ a trancedent band. Their LIVE shows. Long hailed by critics as one of if not THE best live band of their generation, Okonokos covers the first half of My Morning Jacket's career. (A long awaited follow up is rumored to be coming in 2020.) So listeners get all the good stuff from The Tennessee Fire, At Dawn, It Still Moves, and Z. A double album recorded in 2005 at the Fillmore, San Francisco, this one comes and doesn't stop. And for a live record, it does a great job bottling what music fans know is nearly impossible to capture, a legendary live band at their best.

  4. My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall

    45 For Sale from $7.69

    Ok, now it gets tricky. Line up any of the albums from here on out, and you'll have a huge variety of individual preferences.

    We'll start with the bands most recent album, 'The Waterfall' at no. 4. Many fans viewed this album as a return to form for the band, and while its debatable if a 'return' was needed, there is no doubt about the merits of 'The Waterfall'.

    Compound Fracture and Big Decisions lead the way as compentent singles supporting the album as introductions.

    The album seems most rooted in relationships and one's approach to life overall, as supported by the standouts In Its Infancy, Get the Point, and Thin Line.

    The album has produced two live standouts which are sure to stay on the main setlist for some time. Spring (Among the Living) and Tropics have melted many a faces over the last several years, and are the best tracks on the album to show off that soundsystem you're proud of.

    But for me, the takeaway from this album is the closer, Only Memories Remain. A beautiful soul song displays James' vocals and emotion for what they are, something unique in a world of 10 million bands clamoring for their moment. This song will haunt you, in a good way, and its an amazing way to end a spin of a record.

  5. My Morning Jacket - Circuital

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    Circuital will garner mixed assessments from fans, but there is no doubt it produced its high notes and is a strong album throughout.

    The opener, Circuital, is a rolling, bouncing sound where James pens about it balance and connections in a more concise way that he does in so many songs. It is followed by Victory Dance, which is often used as a live opener. The heavy bass and build up is a great way to build energy. Other standouts include Wonderful (The Way I Feel), a sweet ode to life that James credits with pulling himself out of a dark place. Finally Out of My System is a bouncy hit and Holding Onto Black Metal, a roaring, horn laden jam about growing out of darkness is sure to get anyone on their feet.

    The rest of the album is strong, competent, and balanced, and slots Circuital into a solid place on the MMJ mantle of albums.

  6. My Morning Jacket - At Dawn

    4 For Sale from $41.67

    Many hardcore MMJ fans would lament 'At Dawn' being so far down this list, and for good reason. The bands follow up to their debut, 'At Dawn' saw the band tighten their sound from the first album, and the result is a classic that produced many songs still heard on tour to this day.

    The standards born here include the haunting Bermuda Highway, the ode to your favorite singer, The Way that He Sings, and classics XMAS Curtain and Phone Went West.

    Other standouts are the more somber songs such as the opener, At Dawn, the sweet and sincere Hopefully, and Death is the Easy Way and Strangulation.

    At Dawn established MMJ as a band with substance, and the album still holds its weight to this day.

  7. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

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    Ah Evil Urges.....the most debated album of all MMJ efforts. With time, this album has grown to be much more appreciated. But at the time of its debut, it was not widely lauded.

    Released as the much antipcated follow up to the critically acclaimed 'Z', Evil Urges zigged where most bands would zag. The album doesn't lend itself to a musical them, instead bouncing around all kinds of sounds and styles.

    Perhaps the focal point of the criticism was 'Highly Suspicious', the song critics just didn't get. Still my least favorite My Morning Jacket song, James stated it was merely in good fun. And it does get some love when it is played at a show.

    But the album did produce no less than 5 standards fans love to this day. Evil Urges is rock jam that can be sung along with, the bookend suite of Touch Me I'm Going to Scream, parts 1 and 2, is beloved by fans, particularly the spooky bass driven part 2. Smoking from Shooting is a building ballad made to be played live,and I'm Amazed was the bands biggest 'hit', to this day.

    The rest of the album is actually quite strong, if not clearly uniform. Fans have grown to credit Evil Urges more and more as the years go by. When its good, its quite good. But the lack of thematic consistency on the album lend to a less strong record, if only in comparison, to MMJ's stronger efforts. Still, it is definitely worth a purchase for fans.

  8. My Morning Jacket - The Tennessee Fire

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    The Tennessee Fire was My Morning Jacket's debut effort. While the original was clearly not professionally produced and polished, the recent 20th anniversary re-issue cleans a lot of this sound up.

    The result is an effort that showcased what was to come in a beautiful, intimate album. The sound is much more basic and less evolved that what was to come, but it showed a peek of the potential. While the record only produced one standard for their live shows, the smooth 'War Begun', it still provides a long list of intimate, sincere, and melodic song writing from a young James.

    With a Tennessee Fire, fans see the beginning of what to come. The album would be a classic standard bearer for less competent bands, and while it comes in at the end of this list, it is not a throw away.

    Best saved at this day and age for the experienced fan who appreciates the album despite its lack of polish, The Tennessee Fire is still a wonderful spin for a true fan. One that will provide a wonderful end of the journey, for now, for any new fans, and one that will provide a warm, nostalgic memory for original fans of the band.

    Fret not, if by this point you are a true fan, you still have Jim James solo catalogue and plenty of EPs from the band to continue your journey.