My Morning Jacket Circuital

My Morning Jacket’s popularity has exploded over the last few years: See, for instance, their Madison Square Garden New Year’s appearance in 2009, guest spot on American Dad, and week-long residency at Terminal 5 in 2010. All of this even though, depending on who you ask, the band’s never matched It Still Moves or Z. That said, Circuital — a more consistent and enjoyable experience than Evil Urges — is a step in the right direction.

The three best tracks on Circuital are the ones you’ve probably already heard, but they’re worth hearing again: The live staple “Wonderful” sweetens Jim James’ vocal with strings. “Holdin’ On To Black Metal,” their strangest and best experiment in a while, reminds you of a Vegas show, over the top and full of glitter and chorus girls (it borrows from a piece of Thai pop). And the title track is the best live bet for the same reasons it sounds good on record: The gauzy hum, soft acoustic guitar and padded drum of the first few minutes move into a rambling mid-tempo road song before it collapses back down. It’s got a nice curve to it that should work well in the cavernous venues they get to play now.

The rest of Circuital is a little flat, with a few exceptions like closer “Movin Away,” which features a delicate cracking vocal from Jim James. (Unfortunately, the remainder of the album fails to show off that voice, one of the most compelling in rock: It’s rich, gorgeous, limber.) The background vocals on “Victory Dance” will remind you a bit of the sometimes off, sometimes inspired risks they took on Evil Urges. The dry rhythm on that song is a nice touch too (as it goes with MMJ songs, they put some of their most interesting sonic ideas in the back of the mix).

Lyrically the band don’t stretch themselves; lots of songs seem to be about getting older and escape and are filled with the kind of pat philosophical observations you get from the guy drinking alone at the bar (“you’re dying a little bit every day,” etc.). “Outta My System,” though, combines those themes with some funny lines about getting caught getting high: “They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn’t listen / Never thought I’d get caught and wind up in prison.” No longer young enough to “smoke drugs,” My Morning Jacket’s highs aren’t as high as they used to be … but at least they do come once in a while.

Circuital is out 5/31 via ATO.

Comments (25)
  1. it sounds like you listened to this album once and weren’t entirely paying attention.

    • Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. This is also an extraordinarily embarrassing sentence:

      “No longer young enough to ‘smoke drugs,’ My Morning Jacket’s highs aren’t as high as they used to be … but at least they do come once in a while.”

  2. I like this PE a lot more than the recent ones, some real insight here, a few weeks before any other sites start writing detailed reviews.

    (However, I did enjoy the user ratings, where did that go?)

  3. I haven’t been this disappointed in an album in years. It’s mostly a bore. Aside from three tracks mentioned here, nothing registers and it feels like the same song on repeat without the sonic adventures that make MMJ great.

    • Are you sure you actually heard the album?

      • I’ve listened to it probably four times through, and I can say that it is unequivocably mediocre. Better than E.U. though, and I’m sure the songs will be cool live. It sounds as though the band has reached a point where they know they don’t really have to be innovative – their new attitude is “as long as they sound good at a festival, it’s all good”

  4. This album is AMAZING.

  5. Could they have chosen an uglier album cover?

    I also found the album to be fairly decent nothing special. It’s better than “Evil Urges” but no where near as good as “Z”.

  6. Am I the only one that absolutely loves Evil Urges?

    • No, I loved it! Not sure why “critics” were so down on it.

    • out of all their albums, i find myself listening to it the most

    • I loved just about every song on that album. Every god damned writer tries to compare these newer album to the likes of It Still Moves…and you just can’t do that.

      If you enjoy this album for what it is, it is absolutely spectacular.

    • No. Evil Urges is way better than this one. I actually liked the experimentation of evil urges. I was expecting another much different style on this one. But bottom line its just disappointing. Sounds like they took 3 yrs to put out an album that was done in one week. I’ve listened to it 5 or 6 times and theres only a couple i wouldn’t mind hearing at a jacket show and “wonderful” is definitely not one of them. whoever wrote this artical is clueless

  7. Out of my system might be one of the coolest songs I’ve heard in a long time. This album is nuts

  8. I have listened to this album a few times now, and I might be in the minority, but I think this is My Morning Jacket’s best work.

    On At Dawn, the songs were not as focused and meandered too much. It Still Moves was overly long, and I don’t always like the extended guitar jams. There is really only one song on It Still Moves that is under 5 min, with three songs over 7 minutes. Their next album Z, contained better song structure and focus, but again I feel like some songs get too jam band-ish. Evil Urges was good, but the middle section dragged too long, and the whole thing kind of felt messy. I think Circuital takes the best aspects of each album while also adding new ideas, to create a cohesive record that I find more enjoyable thanall of their previous work.

  9. This is a pretty enjoyable album. Definitely imperfect. Also, what’s the verdict on “You Wanna Freak Out” – is it cut off or full length? I think this album would be great as a background album while hanging out with friends, but a bit too uneven for a full sit down headphones experience.

  10. I have to say I really enjoyed this album. For me there was only one song that missed and that was “First Light.” Other than that one song this is a very solid album and better than most. I would put it in the same category as At Dawn, It Still Moves and Z.

  11. I’m one of the people that actually loved Evil Urges. It’s their most accessible, enjoyable album to date. It might not flow together as well as the others, but its the meatiest of their collections. Circuital might actually disappoint those who were initially turned on by EU, though. It sounds more like Z than its predecessor. I don’t think I’ll end up liking it as much as Z or even Evil Urges, but its definitely a great album and Victory Dance is absolutely amazing. Haunting even, which is not the word that comes to mind when i think of MMJ.

  12. I thought its production sounded very similar to Evil Urges. It sounds very bright for the most part.

  13. I can’t believe people are praising this album. I’ve been a jacket fan for a long time and I am VERY disappointed. The first song is mediocre….like they’re gonna lead you to a great song but instead you get circuital…more mediocrity. My favorite is The day is coming. Nice drum/bass combo that we all love about MMJ. Wonderful isn’t so wonderful. Out of my system is definitely out of my system. Holding on to black metal would definitely be a good live jam that i wouldnt mind seeing at all. First light only leaves you hanging (would’ve loved to have gotten a Jim James facemelter at least once on the album.) So you wanna freak out would’ve probably been one of the better songs if they would’ve finished it. Slow slow tune blah blah blah. It woulda been better if it weren’t for the junk that preceded it. The same goes for movin away. But overall just bad. Sounds more like a Jim James solo project than a Jacket album. I guess bottom line is if you’re gonna make a sub-par album don’t make your fans wait 3 yrs for it.

  14. I may be biased as I am a big MMJ fan, currently living in Louisville, and can literally see the steeple of the church they recorded this in out my window as I type this


    love it.

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