My Morning Jacket
Circuital


2.5
average

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
May 26th, 2011 | 96 replies | 19,655 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: RIYL: getting reacquainted with your roots, music recorded in a church gymnasium, forging new ground while maintaining a distinct spirit

The above is loosely taken from a Circuital press release. In related news, marketing is one of the worst professions around. Circuital would have you believe that it’s a reaffirmation of the My Morning Jacket of old, of stellar alt-country gems like At Dawn or Z’s soaring experimental psychedelia, but Circuital is more a weak-kneed reminder of My Morning Jacket’s potential. It’s sort of like looking back on one’s misspent youth and remembering things to be a helluva better than they actually were, or, alternatively, listening back to 2008’s Evil Urges and thinking those funky side trips were actually a good idea. Circuital, luckily, doesn’t go quite as far off the rails as Evil Urges did, and it even starts off like everything is going to be okay. The one-two punch of “Victory Dance” and the title track are vintage MMJ, the former building itself up into a feedback soaked wail and the latter a plucked acoustic ditty that explodes into an invigorating display of power chords and Southern-fried guitar histrionics. When they’re on, their combination of old school rock musicianship and James’ distinctively powerful voice is hard to beat. It’s unfortunate, then, that much of this album finds the band unsure of just what they’re good at.

For a record that is supposed to be about the band rediscovering their identity, the rest of Circuital sounds like a hideously unsure thing, torn between sticking to the best of their folksy roots and playing up the worst of leader Jim James’ genre-of-the-day desires. “Outta My System” is a passable Beach Boys imitation, but with its elementary lyrics and go-nowhere structure, it merely serves to stick out like a sore thumb after the beautifully delicate ballad “Wonderful (The Way I Feel).” That’s nothing compared to “Holdin’ On To Black Metal,” a wantonly neon-lit big band number replete with Stax horns and a backup children’s choir. It calls to mind the worst excesses of Evil Urges and then some, a song so egregiously out of its depth that it throws the whole album out of whack. Placed as it is smack dab in the middle of Circuital makes it harder to ignore than most, and it’s a direct shot in the foot to a band that up until then had been well on their way to a record that, if not a true return to form, was at least mildly enjoyable.

It’s the kind of enjoyment distinctly separate from the kind one experienced when hearing the classic rock ‘n’ roll of It Still Moves’ “One Big Holiday” or Z’s ambitious opener “Wordless Chorus.” These are songs that float pleasantly, like the Beatles retro pop of “First Light,” or merely tease with hints of past successes (“You Wanna Freak Out”), songs that show the occasional glimpse of James’ songwriting talent but nothing more. Where previous MMJ albums have burnt out, usually in a haze of glorious guitar twists and turns, Circuital fades, first with a mushy track guaranteed to put everyone by the campfire asleep with “Slow Slow Tune” and then hammering away at the point (yet ever so softly) with the completely unremarkable “Movin’ Away.” It’s a light, pastoral tune that glides by on a melancholy piano line and the scenic pedal steel guitar that arcs over the melody, but it’s also completely, entirely safe and, dare I say it, boring. James’ Hallmarky lyrics (“possessed by your love / under the influence / and though there’s a new life line / I won’t forget the one I left behind”) don’t help matters, making the whole affair seem more like a man interested in creating some gently haunting sounds than saying anything real.

It drives home the point that My Morning Jacket has been making music for going on thirteen years now, and have appeared less like a band divining new inspiration from each other as time goes on and more like a group grasping for a sound that will make them relevant again. Better bands than MMJ are hooking onto the alt-country, folk scene that they brought screaming riffs and James’ howling falsetto to, including James’ own side projects. Circuital isn’t a bad album by any stretch, but in the context of My Morning Jacket’s body of work, it sounds hopelessly unsure of itself, content to create lesser shadows of past greats. A distinct spirit? Always. Forging new ground? Only in the minds of marketing execs.



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Chart.
3.5
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other reviews of this album
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Getting back to the eccentric basics that made them relevant in the first place....


Comments:Add a Comment 
DoubtGin
May 26th 2011



6686 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah, this is a pretty disappointing record

mallen-
May 26th 2011



1235 Comments


Excellent review klapper. Keep forgetting to check out a full album by these guys.

Digging: The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2011



9996 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

get it still moves or Z

EverythingEvil2113
May 26th 2011



1278 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

First two tracks were so good then it just all went downhill. I'm going to give this some more listens before rating it but right now I'm thinkin a 3-3.5.

thebhoy
Emeritus
May 26th 2011



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah this was pretty meh outside the first two tracks.

AggravatedYeti
May 26th 2011



7684 Comments


nice CMG summary rudy.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2011



9996 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i didn't make any of that up unfortunately

killrobotmusic
May 26th 2011



670 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn I figured this would be pretty good. Still probably going to check it out.

Gard3n
May 27th 2011



271 Comments


Their last album was very underrated and I liked it a lot! So I'm defenitily going to check this...

twlichty
May 27th 2011



3394 Comments


damn look like another flop.


why is this band making so much bad music now?

Digging: Lusine - A Certain Distance

telebyrd
May 27th 2011



869 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, Klap. For the first time listener, I'd highly recommend Okonokos

fennema
May 27th 2011



2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is ridiculous. Did you just review the leak of the album? Really?? Looks like it cause the leak is incomplete with one song cut off like you said: "or excite before being needlessly cut off (“You Wanna Freak Out”)...". The song is is not supposed to be cut off and IS NOT if you go listen to the real thing. The leak also has subpar quality. Do yourself a favour, dump this review, listen to the official release and come back in a week or so.

ps. Love this album, it's awesome.

telebyrd
May 27th 2011



869 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fennema? 1 comment? Really? You must work for ATO Records.

fennema
May 27th 2011



2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nope, sorry. Do you need 100s of comments before you can speak your mind? Gotta start sometime. Seriously, don't you think it's weird an incomplete leak of the album is getting reviewed? I really don't care if you download a leak, just make sure you get the real, complete thing before you write about it. Come on.

aftertheflood
May 27th 2011



3 Comments


Just to let you know, you're probably listening to an incomplete leaked version of the record, where "You Wanna Freak Out" cuts off. It's not supposed to be that way.

Good review though.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 27th 2011



9996 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

unfortunately, one minute and a half's worth of a song isn't going to change my outlook on this album

Phideaux
May 27th 2011



1652 Comments


I was just starting to get into this band. Really hoping this would be good. I'll probably still check it out since I actually liked Evil Urges pretty well. Good review.

30GallonTank
May 27th 2011



1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Holding on to Black Metal" does stick out a bit. But, it's experimentation is much more welcome than any of the Prince-like funk on Evil Urges. You said it yourself - "Stax Horns." Horns that are much more reminiscent of "Easy Mornin' Rebel" than anything off Evil Urges. My Morning Jacket has always had an undercurrent of soul and rhythm & blues in their output. Especially since It Still Moves.

Your charge that "Holding on to Black Metal" sticks out like a sore thumb, and ruins the album's flow is almost contradictory. Especially for someone who seems to be such a fan of Z. People seem to forget that Z was quite sporadic in its moods and tempos as well. Is there anyone out there that can honestly say that "Into the Woods" didn't sound out of place the first time they listened to Z?

So, before you accuse me of working for ATO Records... Yes. I am a fan of this band. That said... I agree that Evil Urges was an incoherent mess. Nothing disappointed me more in 2008. But, I feel that you (along with several other "critics") have deemed that album My Morning Jacket's death sentence.

You should give this album more time.



klap
Staff Reviewer
May 27th 2011



9996 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

the thing with Z is that that experimentation resonated with me almost immediately. i like the songs on circuital, but they don't leave a lasting impression with me. im going to be listening to this album more over the course of the summer but i don't see it sticking with me

Phideaux
May 27th 2011



1652 Comments


So many new posters in this thread.



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