The orange waterfall on the cover says it all: My Morning Jacket bliss out on 10 psychedelic, southern-tinged, soft-rock mood-pieces about traveling, getting wasted, and falling in love. The songs are leftovers from the sessions that yielded 2015’s The Waterfall, but they feel less like a tributary and more like their own river. When Covid-19 forced the world into lockdown, frontman Jim James played his iTunes on random and stumbled on “Spinning My Wheels,” a gorgeous ballad about feeling stuck that he and his bandmates had orchestrated with a Rhodes piano melody and it inspired him to listen to the rest of the outtakes. Unsurprisingly, the songs all sported a similar sense of groove, and voila, an album.
What’s impressive is how the escapist lyrics perfectly complemented the age of quarantine. “Feel You,” another piano ballad, finds James singing, “All I want to do is feel you,” a relatable enough sentiment that it quickly became a radio hit. And on the jazzy closing number, “The First Time,” he ponders, “I wonder where the time went,” over serene guitar and synthesizer melodies. With the exception of “Wasted,” with its hard-rock guitar and raging solo, there’s a gentleness and a sweetness to The Waterfall II that is easy to get lost in. “Climbing the Ladder” has a whimsical country-rock feel, “Welcome Home” gives off peaceful, easy feelings, and the dreamlike, shimmery ear candy that defines “Beautiful Love (Wasn’t Enough)” makes up for James’ piteous lyrics about a broken romance. Listening to The Waterfall II, the only explanation as to why My Morning Jacket abandoned these songs is just that they go down too easily.