One thing you can always expect from a new My Morning Jacket album is a redefining of all their previous work’s styles. On their sixth installment, Circuital, they continue to raise their own bar with more Pink Floyd-like experimentation of their sound, and this time opting to record in a Highlands’ church gymnasium instead of a traditional recording studio.
The opener, “Victory Dance,” starts somewhat creepy with the onset of Bo Koster’s gothic-like working of the keys, dare I say Nine-Inch-Nails’ish instrumentally, perhaps an immediate indication of how the Church’s surroundings influenced this album’s creative direction. James’ mellow vocals greets quickly, Two Tone Tommy lays in a dark and steady rhythm section, and Carl Broemel incorporates some fuzzed out guitars. All of the sudden, your lost in their canticle.
Six minutes later the opener fades right into the beginning of the title track “Circuital,” a 7+ minute epic song which shows their more whimsical and melodic side of song writing. Drummer Patrick Hallahan finally is able to turn loose a little on this song. Logging plenty of instrumental showcases for each member, James’ paramount tenor decrees how they are “ending up in the same place that we started out.”
An emotional roller coaster begins to take shape on “The Day is Coming,” another darker, more mysterious melody that Koster’s keyboards instrumentally take the lead on. Two Tone Tommy is impressive again on setting the rhythm.
Circling back once again to their musical past, “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” is straight out of any album’s past with the slow and subtle sounds of James’ vocals and his acoustic guitar the focus.
“Outta My System” offers candid admissions from James lyrically (“they told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn’t listen…”) along with a dominant string section that keeps building on the climatic arc of the album. Your attention still firmly in place.
“Holdin‘ On To Black Metal” offers the album’s wildest climax, with a young female choir joining James during the song’s chorus in a jaunty manner.
The back half of the album carries through, still solid MMJ song-crafting, but not as easy to get lost in like the first half of the album. The album’s closer, “Movin Away,” yet another song that Koster’s keys establishes the melody for, also has some impressive steel guitar work by Broemel, while James’ cardinal aria soothes. Yet again, My Morning Jacket astounds.
Interview with Bo Koster on 5-26-2011
Circuital Track List:
1. Victory Dance
3. The Day Is Coming
4. Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
5. Outta My System
6. Holdin’ On To Black Metal
7. First Light
8. You Wanna Freak Out
9. Slow Slow Tune
10. Movin’ Away
** This album review is also published at Louisville.com