This time last year we were lucky enough to see them live at Merriweather as Super Saver crossed the finishline; this year, we're settling for a leak of the band's new album Circuital.
To my untrained ear (relatively novice, in relation to their lengthy discography), the new album is a diverse showcase of MMJ's talent, one that for the most part, and better, replaces cacophonous machine-made reverb with the genuine peal of Jim James' voice. Sure, the before-they-were-big fan might be offput by the lack of quirky bells and whistles that once typified their music, and many bands rely on; as Pitchfork calls them, "fiery guitar freakouts... soaring space-rock bridges, or psychedelic flourishes."
Yet it seems that with every album we get past Z, we, and they, get a little further from such flourishes; in fact, that's pretty much the underlying theme of the album, figuring what it is we all do and don't outgrow.
The end of the "Victory Dance" is the closest thing to a fiery freakout on the new album, while "Outta My System" is a Beach Boys style reminiscence, and "Slow Slow Tune" is similarly mellow. "First Light" and "Freak You Out" fill the space between these, and the standouts on the album, and are fairly unremarkable for My Morning Jacket (a pretty important disclaimer, however).
The standouts being the two already released tracks: the title track, and Holding Onto Black Metal (my personal favorite, the hands down funkiest song on the record). They're more complex musically and lyrically than the rest of Circuital and hardly exemplify it (though, it's easy to see why they became the previews).
Critics will always find something to complain about, but true fans won't be disappointed in Circuital, even if it means they only add the two standouts to their MMJ mix. Check them out in our Spring has Sprung Grooveshark playlist, and listen to the whole album at NPR's First Listen.