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My Morning Jacket - Circuital
May 27, 2011
Total plays:
55 times
Why do we like this?
I saw My Morning Jacket live a few years back, touring in support of their 2008 album Evil Urges. They had no opening band and tore through two full sets in the misty outdoor fog of Berkeley's Greek Theater. Every single song they played had the energy and power and melt-your-face-off force of a finale. It was, in a word, epic.

That's the description I keep coming back to listening to their incredibly anticipated new release Circuital. Jim James and his long-haired brethren have done it again, reinventing southern stadium rock without sacrificing the grand bombast that makes it so excellent.

Evil Urges was so remarkable (and bizarre) because every song played like a different genre. Circuital maintains a more consistent theme and seems to delve into the band's roots, which increases its overall impact. Songs swell in and out of grandness, linked by shredding electric guitars and James's marvelous ringing falsetto (though I love the mouthful-of-molasses quality of his lower tones as well).

My Morning Jacket have been lending to the buildup of this release, dropping live tracks every week or so, until finally letting loose the good time track "Holding Onto Black Metal" and the lengthy and lovely title song, "Circuital."

These gems were only tastes of the album in full. The band announces itself grandly with the opener "Victory Dance," which starts out slow and low, finally climaxing in a wave of guitars and howls (cue the stage smoke). "Outta My System" is a killer example of the kind of 70s retrospective that MMJ manage to evoke without purely mimicking it, or without giving into the kitsch that "big" rock can so easily produce. "Slow Slow Tune" is, as promised, a slowed-down number, but stadium style -- it's injected with ringing guitar solos. Many songs beg for an outdoor arena, but the opening crunch of guitar chords on "First Light" really suggest that echo, and a crush of sweaty bodies dancing in unison. James's voice rings and growls over a fuzzed, out synth sound. "Holy shit," you think. "This is what rock 'n' roll should always sound like."

And that's the beauty of My Morning Jacket. They've captured the spirit of their predecessors, and, with creative ingenuity and mad musical skills, made it new again.

Circuital is streaming on NPR right now; the album is officially out next Tuesday, May 31.
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