It was rumored that a big bang created the universe as we know it, and that there would be a companion album to 2015’s The Waterfall, which was the last we saw from My Morning Jacket. It was not the last of Jim James.
James’ Tributes to 2 (a followup to his EP of George Harrison covers, Tribute To) bursts forth through the static with great gusts of sadness. The first track released was a cover of The Beach Boys “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”—it’s psychedelic, slow and soulful, as is the “visualizer” for the song. Today the MMJ bandleader released “The World is Falling Down” (and accompanying “visualizer” of photographic memories), his cover of an Abbey Lincoln song from 1990, stripped of its jazz vibrato and taken for a walk down the neck of a guitar rather than an upright bass.
In Lincoln’s version, the lyrics are clearer on the ears: “There were some folks I used to know / who used to smile and say hello / and spin the world and turn the page / entertaining from the stage.” You feel as though you’re supposed to be nostalgic for some kind of vaudevillian romp, a clown, a child in the 1920s holding a small balloon—except for the fact that “The world is falling down / hold my hand” could be said for any century where humankind have been involved … or maybe just this year in particular.
That being said, you could interpret both the lyrics and timing of the song this way: Fear not, for “Father Time” and a deranged child are still at the helm, and it will all have “disappeared just like the sun / when the day is done” in the impending apocalypse.
For his part, James said in a statement:
Even though she released this song in 1991 it felt so relevant to right now. I think so many of us feel the world is falling apart right now—that the powers that be are trying to divide us and rip us apart … when I heard that song it just resonated deeply because there is such pain there but I feel she also is offering hope and realization that we need each other’s help in times of crisis.
You can preorder Tribute to 2 here. Below, check out James’ cover of “The World is Falling Down,” as well as an interview with James from relatively simpler times in 2013.