By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
Subtly placed amongst the storm of the election, Jim James’ second solo album, Eternally Even, turns the volume down and takes aim at the muddled world around. A harmonious blend of pseudo-psychedelic and R&B give James’ latest release just the right amount of dust.
The subject matter will be no surprise to long-time fans of James: transcendental imagery and gentle jabs at the establishment (often in the same song). Never being a straight shooter, James uses more romantic themes to juxtapose uglier truths. Some songs like “Same Old Lie” are more on-the-nose than usual, as James’ begrudgingly lets out “If you don’t vote it’s on you, not me.” Typically, though, most tracks stick to his more ambiguous lyrical style.
Eternally Even runs like one song with subtle changes of instrumentation and style, keeping the album from becoming repetitious throughout its 41-minute lifespan. Unless the listener is concentrating it is easy to let the entire album sweep by in one smooth motion.
The title track “Eternally Even” is the farthest venture from the typical suave sound present on the rest of the album. All at once things open up, with airy strings and a light cymbal quarter-note beat, giving James room to deliver a beautiful, dreamlike vocal performance.
Indeed, one of James’ most prolific draws is his voice, which is at times large and brooding, and at others hypnotizing and soothing. Nowhere else in his discography does James’ voice fit in more than Eternally Even. No longer having to compete with huge guitar riffs, as is often the case with My Morning Jacket, the vocal melodies on this album are able to ride the smooth instrumentation like a freshly paved road. In songs like “Hide in Plain Sight” and “We Ain’t Getting Any Younger Pt. 2,” James’ voice sticks to the melody like glue, rolling up and down but never going astray.
While it may not offer anything particularly new, Eternally Even is a solid album, fit for the ears of almost any listener, and is a nice addition to Jim James’ legacy of a discography.