The Best Albums of 2011: #8

My Morning Jacket: Circuital

On Circuital, My Morning Jacket succeeds in bridging the gap between the music of It Still Moves and the ambition 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 ambiance of the album, but pays homage to classic songs in the MMJ catalog. On “The Day Is Coming,” they channel 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 fans that felt slighted after Evil Urges.

Select Cuts: Victory Dance, The Day is Coming, Holdin’ on to Black Metal

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. Continue reading

Good Vibrations

Happy 4th of July everyone!  Its been a while since I’ve had a chance to post something new.  With the long weekend, I figured now might be a good time to do so.  For those of you taking a long trip, here’s what I’m listening to now.  Do yourself a favor and add some of this stuff to your weekend playlist.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Up From Below: 7.5

Released: July 7, 2009

Label: Vagrant Records

Sounds like: Mamas & The Papas, Arcade Fire, Polyphonic Spree

Sure, it only took me a year to discover these guys, but better late than never.  I was first introduced to this happy group of throwbacks from my friend Casey.  The song “Home” was my first taste; I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.  Then, more recently on a roadtrip, my friend Roy threw in the whole album and the second bite at the album proved to be more satisfying.  If you didn’t know better, you’d think the album was recorded 30 years ago.  As a whole, its fun, organic, perhaps a bit derivative, but ultimately refreshing.  Great vocals, catchy melodies, and well crafted.

Select Cuts: 40 Day Dream, Home, Janglin

The Roots

How I Got Over: 8.5

Released: June 22, 2010

Label: Def jam

Sounds like: Tribe, De La Soul

How I Got Over is The Roots’ first album since they become Jimmy Fallon’s house band.  On this, their ninth album, this Philly-based rap/soul/jazz group truly shows why they continue to get the respect and adoration of so many.  As I’ve mentioned on previous occasion, the rap genre is much like the broader category of pop music, in that its quite homogeneous (or boring).  Albums like this continue to push back on the notion that rap is dead.  Its fun, creative, and it contains a bevy of credible artists (John Legend, Monsters of Folk/Jim James, Joanna Newsom).  Check it out, there’s something here for everyone.

Select Cuts: Walk Alone, Dear God 2.0, Hustla

The Greatest Albums of the 2000s

#3.  My Morning Jacket, Z (2005): Louisville’s favorite sons My Morning Jacket established a strong following as a band playing southern-style grunge rock that had a certain appeal to the  “jam band” crowd.  With their previous album It Still Moves, the band firmly entrenched themselves as a modern day Crazy Horse,  high pitched vocals and all.  So it was a pleasant surprise when Z was released.  Eschewing a more traditional  lineup and sound by adding keyboards, Z was indeed more 3-dimensional than anything they had ever recorded.  Naturally, Jim James’ soaring near-falsetto vocals still remained.  However, gone – at least for the most part – was the sometimes excessive reverberation of every lyric.  Instead of cliched jam-band tunes with hour long guitar solos, the music is much less formulaic.  The first part of the album is almost entirely psychedelic sounding more like Pink Floyd than Lynyrd Skynyrd.  The sonically enriched “Gideon” proved that MMJ was more than a one-trick pony.  But the album isn’t great simply because of its production.  MMJ brings in other influences.  On “What a Wonderful Man,” the group does their best take on reggae.  Sure Bob Marley may have been turning in his grave, but the effort is earnest.  You’ll be thrown for a loop with the unlikely “Into the Woods,” but the record shines again with the power pop anthem “Anytime.”  Then, just to remind their fans that they still have their jam-band bona fides, they lay it down heavy with “Lay Low,” a jam that would make Dickey Betts blush.

Faves: Gideon, Anytime, Lay Low, Knot Comes Loose