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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Morning Jacket: Circuital (Release Date: 5-31-2011)

        After Four straight stellar CDs, each one better than the last, something went horribly awry in the My Morning Jacket camp. Way, way back in Summer '08, after weeks of anticipation and listening to It Still Moves and Z on endless repeat, I finally got my mitts on Evil Urges, and it was literally one of the most deflating musical experiences of my life. Sure, the band still took risks on the level of Z, but said risks were generally ill-advised (Highly Suspicious), and balancing them out was one snoozer of a predicable Alt-Country song after another (I'm Amazed, Sec Walkin, and so on). It was enough to make you wonder if these guys had lost their edge for good, a question that has remained unanswered up until now, all the pressure in the world on Circuital to prove whether Evil Urges was a mis-step or a turning of the tides.

        If Circuital's opening number is to be believed, it's actually a little bit of both. Riding a darkly tinted keyboard part on top of a slow building, down tempo grind, Victory Dance shows the risk-ready side of the band to be alive and well. Too bad the song isn't... well... very good. Like the openers on the newest discs from Yeasayer and Bright Eyes, it's a tune that goes a ways to express the intentions of the album that it opens, but it's not really a song that you would actively chose to listen to. Like turning on a light switch, the follow-up (and first single off of the album (and title track)) Circuital is a much sunnier track, despite the steady, eerie rumble that introduces the tune. By the time Two minutes have passed, the tune is all Summer, a blissful acoustic guitar serving as lead instrument, Circuital adding in and taking out parts as its Seven minutes float along on the same basic melody. It's a nice song, but it's also a nice song, great for happy-times background music, but no where near as ear-catching or hungry as previous MMJ extended tracks like Run Thru or Dondante. What's worse: It might be the best song on the album.

        The Day is Coming is pretty good, and so is the gentle ballad Wonderful (The Way I Feel), but pretty good seems to be the height of the band's ambitions this time out. Where Evil Urges saw the band face-plant, Circuital simply feels forgettable, not a musical crime by any means, but a difficult disc to celebrate. I found myself completely unable to keep track of song names while listening, and found that I often had other songs stuck in my head immediately after listening. Not once does the ass-kicking, Four-hour-long-show-playing band that we've all come to know and love appear. In their place is a group more than apt at making 3-4 minute ditties that ebb and flow exactly as you expect them to, a band that has swapped out lyrics like, "And all that ever mattered/Will someday turn back to batter/Like a Joke," for ones like, "I'm goin' where the living is easy/And the people are kind/A new state of mind."

        If that doesn't speak to some reduced ambitions, I don't know what does. Those hoping for even one new killer MMJ electric guitar solo would be wise to curb their ambitions. With Two albums worth of evidence, it appears that My Morning Jacket's days of being one of the best bands out there have come to a close. It's a pretty crushing blow, a pain that the passable Circuital serves as little balm for. I'll always relish my old CDs of theirs, but I can't help but think that I'll be all done listening to Circuital in Five, Four, Three, Two, One...

Grade: C-


  1. Pretty poor review. Sounds like you listened oonce and put it aside. Save the real journalism for talented writers.

  2. What do you like about the album? I really wanted to enjoy it, but I just couldn't, maybe you can help me

  3. I have to agree with the first anonymous; pretty poor review. When you learn to write a coherent sentence that doesn't end with a preposition, maybe I'll accept your criticism of a band's lyrics. Until then your review gets a D-.