As James reveals, the decision to unearth The Waterfall II was sparked from a bit of serendipity in the early days of self-quarantine. While out on a walk, he placed his music library on shuffle and soon stumbled upon “Spinning My Wheels,” a tender rumination on the struggle for presence, its lyrics confessing to feeling “hypnotized from doing the same old thing.” Struck by the song’s enduring relevance, James revisited the other tracks reserved from the Panoramic House sessions and found that they invited a welcome moment of self-reflection—an outcome perhaps even more perfectly suited to the chaos of the current day than the circumstances of their recording.
Like its predecessor, The Waterfall II mines its mood of dreamy contemplation from certain heartbreak James had recently experienced, including the demise of a monumental relationship. Unfolding in a loosely threaded narrative of loss and recovery, the album conjures an indelible pain but never drifts into despair, gracefully conveying James’s message that “there is hope beyond the pain and loss, if you learn to flow with life like water.”
Even in its most heavy-hearted moments, The Waterfall II radiates an undeniable sense of wonder, a testament to the wild-mindedness that’s long imbued the music of My Morning Jacket. With their unabashed curiosity infinitely stirred by their time at Stinson Beach, the band hopes that the album might lead others to look beyond what’s human-made in the search for solace and renewal. “As so many of us feel out of tune and long for the world to be a better place, we have to look to nature and the animals and learn from them: learn to love, accept, move on, and respect each other,” says James. “We gotta work for it and change our ways before it’s too late, and get in harmony with love and equality for all of humanity and for nature too.”