Home > Music Reviews > Review: My Morning Jacket- Circuital

Review: My Morning Jacket- Circuital

My Morning Jacket has released their sixth studio album Circuital. The album  has been hailed as a “return to their roots” with hints of Country, Southern Rock and Blue Grass straight from their Kentucky home.

However, don’t be discouraged by the proclamation of varying genres–it’s not necessarily an experimental album although it is certainly ecclectic–the “roots return” is fairly subtle with small nuances that are noticeable from song to song but aren’t distracting.

I imagine that the idea behind the production and sequencing of the album was to showcase a wide variety of songs. I feel as if this was effective–the songs do show us different sides of MMJ, but it’s as if the continuity of the album was lost. I, personally, enjoy an album that reads like a book or a good film. An album you can put in and from start to finish tells a story–tracks that lead into other tracks and so forth. I think that this was missed in Circuital. The feeling of the album comes off  as jumpy  rather than an assortment of styles.

The “jumpy” nature of this album is very different than their other albums, primarily their acclaimed Z album where the cohesion and storytelling is certainly there. However, the Z album is often seen as a milestone for My Morning Jacket, so with each sequential album since Z, MMJ fans are seeing if the group can recreate such a prolific work, or at least a work that is similarly ground breaking.

Though, in Circuital My Morning Jacket doesn’t try to recreate their previous sounds and instead they try to use the album as a platform to show their multitudes.

For instance Circuital, the title track of the album features a very minimalistic kick drum and the haunting vocal prowess of Jim James. The vocal crooning in turn leads us into a charming guitar break which then transforms into a southern rock inspired jam with a popping acoustic guitar with electric riffs tangled in. The opening track Victory Dance is met with laid back vocals, and an “in the pocket”drum groove and a dominant fuzzed out organ. The vocal styling of James, met with a youth choir and shooting horns makes Holding On To Black Metal an oddly catchy song that is certainly very unique in its own right and one of the better tracks from the album. The song First Light is another great track with simplistic keyboard and effective lyrics.

However, this is where things seem to go a bit downhill for me. The next song Slow Slow Tune has a lethargic feeling to it, and is a great display of James vocals. It’s a minimalistic song where primarily the drums and piano are displayed–but I feel as if it’s a bit excessively mellow. There doesn’t seem to be any form of change in the song to keep the listener interested–it seems to only work as a novelty. The novelty being that it’s well..a slow song.

This song is then followed with Moving Away a waltz driven track that is another very lethargic tune, which seems to be an odd song to follow the previous Slow Slow Tune. The two are both decent songs in their own right, I love a good waltz–but sequenced together it just creates a bit too much of a sleepy feel.

Wonder (Way I feel) is a track that seems to make up for the other two slow ballads, with its steel guitar that is reminsicent of the traditional sad country song as well as lyrics that tell a story of a weary eyed traveler. It’s also placed at a decent place in the album, in between a fast song and one with a moderate tempo–Out Of My System. Out Of My System  features hints of 50’s rock influence and a similarly styled steel guitar. However, again, the placement and production of some of these tracks really make it lose continuity–the song itself is a story of how to live life and how to avoid a midlife crisis. Though I feel as if these meaningful lyrics are lost with the busy back beat and steel guitar–I think the track would be better off with a more simple feel that showcases James’ voice and the songs inspirational lyrics.

Over all, the album is decent. Though, it reads more like a compilation of songs rather than an album, the entire piece is just lacking that continuity  that can be seen in some of their past work. There are certainly gems in this album, songs like Circuital and Holding On To Black Metal being two. Also there aren’t necessarily any bad songs, but there certainly are some mediocre ones that fall flat and don’t contribute much to the whole. I’d recommend purchasing individual tracks rather than buying the entire album, unless your a hardcore MMJ fan who just has to have it in their library. Good pieces are held within just not too crazy about the entirety.

Image Courtesy: 2bp

  1. 06/02/2011 at 12:15 am

    Rolling Stone was loving this album. I am pretty sure they gave it 4 stars. They focused on how great some of the lyrics are. I am looking forward to listening to it – maybe I’ll just skip the ones you panned – as those the MMJ songs I tend not to like. The lazy meandering ones. My favorite is “One Big Holiday” – which I heard for free on this stupid CD that Wired Magazine gave away for free. I knew I liked them right then and there.

    • 06/02/2011 at 12:35 am

      Thanks for the comment, Steve!

      There are some good tracks:
      Victory Dance, Black Metal, Circuital and some of the slower tunes I mentioned. I was just let down by the “flow” of the album. Then again, rarely are albums listened to as a whole these days, so maybe it wasn’t intended for things to be sequential.

      I enjoy MMJ as well, James has one of the most unique voices out there! I was just kinda let down with some of the “meandering” tracks in the middle and song placement.

      Thanks so much for the comment, glad you read my post!

  1. 06/12/2011 at 3:28 am

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