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My Morning Jacket – Circuital album review

This is My Morning Jacket’s best album. Yes, I said it. Now you can rip me apart and argue for 2005’s Z, to which I’ll retort that 2008’s Evil Urges was still better. Evil Urges explored Jim James’ quiet and sentimental side on tracks such as “Librarian,” “Look At You,” and “Sec Walkin,” which was so fresh for MMJ, but now with Circuital, there is no differentiating between “quiet” or “loud” tracks. The band has instead developed a perfect blend of the hard rockin’ edge of “I’m Amazed” with the blissful enchantment of those quieter tracks, and they’ve fit that into every song…and it’s made for their most cohesive effort to date.

As one would figure at this point in his life, frontman Jim James is at his happiest. “First I was an ancient…now I’m alive,” he bellows on “First Light,” in only the way James can do. (Literally. Do you know anyone who can mimic his voice?) On “Wonderful,” he sings of his joyous disposition, soaking in the present without sweating the future, and on “Slow Slow Tune,” he croons, “You decide the pace/ You set the tone/ Your future now your own.” Aware of his stardom, James slows things down not only musically but also emotionally, making sure he lives for himself and not for the masses.

It’s the final track, “Movin’ Away,” though, that really tugs at fans’ heartstrings, because although the song is likely about love, James gives a sneaking suspicion that his words are for the followers on this one. “I hope I’ll always be what you want,” he sings. “I won’t forget the one I left behind.” More famous than ever, My Morning Jacket are feeling the pressure of being a chameleon-like musical act known for changing its colors from album to album, and now that’s going to weigh on them more than ever to continue their legacy. But for the time being, this band can rest assured knowing they’ve made their most amazing album yet. The song “Circuital” is about going through the motions, but fortunately that’s the exact opposite of what these guys do, and something tells me they’ll never allow themselves to fall into that habit.

By Matt Edsall

Matt's obsession with music rivals few other obsessions in his life. ("The Wire" and drinking coffee are two of them.) He resides in Los Angeles, but hopes to settle in Nashville. You can check out more at his own music blog (link below), as well as at Popmatters.com, where he also does album reviews.

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