May 9, 2011

My Morning Jacket - Circuital - Preview Review

It's a befitting time to feature a second annual Kentucky Derby post about some of our favorite Louisville natives, My Morning Jacket.  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.


  1. i would disagree true fans won't be disappointed with this album. I really think they have distanced themselves too much from their earlier, and in my opinion better work. This album, just like the last, falls short of expectations.

  2. See to me, a true fan understands that an artist evolves, that not every album is going to be It Still Moves Part Two, that recognizes Jim James honest-to-goodness talent. Or maybe being on the bandwagon first is what makes you one. I'm no expert.

    I'll admit, I'm not quick to be critical, but that's because I really like Jim James. And I think the two standouts on the record are worth purchasing the whole thing. To each his own.

  3. Also, see AV Club response from Jim James himself re: what My Morning Jacket "owes" fans:,56644/

  4. I think it's important to recognize that bands and sound evolve. I've been an MMJ fan for a long time, and still regularly listen to At Dawn and The Tennessee Fire. No doubt, Jim wrote some GREAT songs on that album (At Dawn, By My Car, Strangulation!, Nashville to Kentucky) and granted they don't get stuck in the regular rotation on their tours, but he himself has matured, grown older, etc. To me, the most impressive thing for an artist is longevity and the ability to consistently make great music - which few bands actually do. My Morning Jacket is moving on that path, not to mention they are one of the greatest live bands on the planet. Maybe you appreciate the simplified MMJ, the twang, the acoustic bliss of their earlier albums, or the grain-silo reverb. Even when you hear these older songs played live, they are different from the era from where they came - because they evolved, the sound has changed.

    The old Jacket lineup was driven so much by Jim - I mean, c'mon, the whole band practically broke up except for him and Tom. He assembled a whole new cast that evolved into an amazing rock group that now operates as a cohesive unit. You listen to Circuital. I dare you to find an MMJ album with a better one-two punch intro than Victory Dance > Circuital. If you don't get excited about that, you should probably give up an interest in the band. Jim James may go down as the greatest songwriter of his generation because he has such a dearth of great songs to cull from going all the way back. We should embrace these new sounds because it's pretty freakin' impressive. It's because he finally found a band to help craft his visions and any article you read, you hear of his fondness for Motown, R&B, and Soul. I was even at their show at Madison Sq Garden in 2008 - the soul covers throw down. You just need to accept change or listen to Tribute To on repeat, but of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I like my Jacket just the way they are.

  5. Idon't think that when people grow up, they will become morebroad-minded and can accept everything. Conversely, I think it's aselecting process, knowing what's the most important and what's theleast. And then be a simple man


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