Album Review: My Morning Jacket [Circuital]

Rating: 8.9

Label: ATO

Release Date: May 31, 2011

Louisville, Kentucky’s very own My Morning Jacket return to familiar ground on their brilliant new release Circuital. Long since admired by critics and music fans alike for their unique blend of southern-styled Americana and British psychedelic rock, MMJ seek once again to be the standard bearers of American rock music; in this endeavor they succeed.

For MMJ, their path to rock n’ roll ubiquity has been slow, steady, but always earnest. With their “major” label debut, It Still Moves, they unleashed their brand of rock with big, anthemic songs, lead singer Jim James’ high pitched reverb –drenched vocals, and long jam sessions. On their follow-up Z — easily the high water mark in the MMJ canon — they incorporated more experimental ideas and the result was impressive. The next album Evil Urges, followed a similar path as Z, but with an all-embracing approach featuring songs like “Highly Suspicious.” A loopy falsetto-laced funk pop track that really had no semblance to anything else the band had recorded prior.  While not nearly the album Z was, it was still one to appreciate, if only for its ambition; confusion notwithstanding.

On Circuital, My Morning Jacket succeeds in bridging the gap between the music of It Still Moves and the ambition of Z and Evil Urges. Musically, the album is more focused than its immediate predecessor. Clocking in at just under an hour, Circuital deftly walks the line between progress and familiarity. The opening song “Victory Dance” is a haunting slow-moving tribal movement that starts subtly but ends with a roar. The title track successfully captures the ambience of the album, but pays homage to MMJ songs of years past. On “The Day Is Coming,” MMJ channels their inner Seals & Crofts. The track is essentially a mashup of R&B, pop, and alt-rock, with an irresistible chant that starts the song and rings throughout the whole track. On “Wonderful (the way I feel),” the band shows off it’s softer side with a song that brings James’ vocals front and center, unlike some of the other tracks on the album. While surprises on the album are few, if any, the familiarity should serve as comfort food for those MMJ fans that felt slighted after Evil Urges.

After the release of Z, I proclaimed these guys to be the best rock n’ roll band in America. While Evil Urges was a good album in its own right, it certainly caused me to re-think that statement. Of course now, I’m happy to say that Circuital vindicates that belief.

Select Cuts: Circuital, The Day is Coming, Outta My System, Holding on to Black Metal

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