My Morning Jacket – Circuital

written by: May 30, 2011
Release Date: May 31, 2011


My Morning Jacket’s evolution took a bizarre turn with 2008’s Evil Urges. The group’s sound was simplified and diversified, which rendered either bland tunes or awfully weird ones in which Jim James does his best Prince impression singing about a “peanut butter pudding surprise.” The band did not sprawl out and jam as they were wont to do before, except on the decent “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream (Part 2)” and instead wrote simple songs with simple lyrics. Had Jim James’ voice not been present, this would sound like a completely different band.

After that disaster, many fans are waiting for reviews to tell them whether or not to bother with Circuital. They will be pleased to know the band is getting back on the right track. From the get-go we hear the band reestablishing their cavernous reverb and classic rock roots. “Victory Dance” will make for one killer set opener with its deep bass and dynamic progression.

While the term fans are hoping to see is “return to form,” Circuital sounds more like a suit tailored to their new form. It sounds like the band that made Evil Urges honing in on their strengths and not trying any funny business. The songs rely on simple chords and melodies but do benefit from stronger arrangements and production. Strings swooping in and out, piano flourishes and tastefully treated guitars keep the title track and “The Day Is Coming” afloat over their longer durations while “You Wanna Freak Out” is a nice poppy rock tune, short and sweet with some excellent slide guitar.

At their core, these songs aren’t anything special, but the band put the pieces together well enough to make them enjoyable and when Jim James gets to cooing at the end of “Circuital” it can even be serene, a sonic strength of some of the group’s best songs from years past. Similarly peaceful is “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” an acoustic piece that comes dangerously close to sounding like a Fleet Foxes song, albeit with cheesier lyrics (if the title didn’t indicate that already).

On that note, as the album progresses the plainness of the lyrics becomes more and more apparent until they become silly.

“Outta My System” is absolutely ruined by the lyrics. Jim James opens with “They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn’t listen/Never thought I’d get caught and wind up in prison” without a hint of sarcasm or irony. The rest of the song follows in the same fashion and would have been an alright track had it not been for these lyrics, which read like they were taken straight from a DARE campaign.

Sonically, they have really improved. Lyrically, not so much. A far cry from the near spiritual experience of Z and an even further cry from the exceptional country rock of It Still Moves or At Dawn, Circuital is a work all its own and this time it’s not an complete embarrassment. Most of these tracks will translate well on stage, but at the same time they fail to reassert My Morning Jacket as a particularly important band.

My Morning Jacket – Circuital Tracklist:

  1. “Victory Dance”
  2. “Circuital”
  3. “The Day Is Coming”
  4. “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”
  5. “Outta My System”
  6. “Holdin on to Black Metal”
  7. “First Light”
  8. “You Wanna Freak Out”
  9. “Slow Slow Tune”
  10. “Movin Away”