My Morning Jacket is possibly the best band in the world at the moment. There's always been a certain amount of "organicness" to the band's execution of their music. To me each of their albums are like each individual color of a rainbow. People have described them as the 'American Radiohead', but the way I see it, they are more on the same line with The Band, in terms of musical collectiveness. Oh and one more thing, I never understood all the negative and lukewarm criticism My Morning Jacket got for their 2008 album, Evil Urges. It was my gateway album into the world of MMJ. Of course, every fan knows that It Still Moves and Z are classics, but for what it's worth and all the synth-funk that came with it, Evil Urges was a bloody brilliant effort, considering their move into a different musical direction, and it was a good move. With that being said, their latest, Circuital is another brilliant album. To my ears it falls somewhere between Evil Urges and Z, and it happens to be their most cohesive album yet.
A gong opens Victory Dance, a slow-burning number that introduces some jarring violins, adding some darkness. The tension soon rises as a crescendo, then ends aggressively with Velvet Underground inspired feedback, and then beautifully goes into the title track, Circuital, which IMO is one of their best songs ever. Another slow-burn that soon turns into some invigorating Southern psychedelia with echoing guitars and keyboards all over the place, it sounds like one gorgeous mess. Yim Yames, as always, has a remarkable singing voice (he does some great Prince-like falsettos and howling at Circuital's closing); the Rolling Stone review described him as a hippie shaman, which is basically what he sounds like! He also has this way of sounding playful and serious at the same time. The third song, The Day Is Coming, has a very live, big room feel to it; I especially love it when the drums come in (the album was recorded in a gymnasium in their hometown of Louisville, KY). I hear it as an incredibly heavy song, the lyrics provide a kind of an apocalyptic feel; but also there's an overwhelming amount of sadness whenever I listen to it, more so with the 'ba-ba-ba' background vocals. Still it's pretty addictive.
Wonderful (The Way I Feel), well, it's a wonderful light-hearted ballad that harks back to the early days of At Dawn. It is then followed by Outta My System, which begins with Jim singing "They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn't listen/Never thought I'd get caught, and wind up in prison."; so damn Beach Boys, which is in no way a bad thing. It's undeniable the track that stands out is Holdin' On To Black Metal, no doubt the best one here. It's funky as hell and simply kicks ass; I don't think I've heard a song by a modern rock band that contains horns and girl singers (in a recent interview with NPR, Yames said he was directly inspired by an obscure '60s Thai-pop compilation!). Devilishly infectious is how I'd describe it.
So begins the second half of the 45min album. By this point, I get the feeling that MMJ is trying to craft songs in a way that you've never heard before. In this day and age, you can say that nothing is really 'original' anymore. Artists and bands merely borrow ideas from their influences and heroes, but the great ones are those that can creatively turn them into something magical (with lack of a better word). Like in the subsequent three songs; the fuzzed up rock & roll of First Light, the country-tinged You Wanna Freak Out and Slow Slow Tune, that has a guitar solo in the spirit of George Harrison -- they all sound familiar and fresh at the same time. And I'll go back to my point about the cohesiveness of this record; one song flows into the next so nicely. As the soothing Movin' Away ends things on an optimistic note, you'll know there and then that MMJ has made another triumphant masterpiece.
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