Artist: My Morning Jacket
Review Guest-Written by Pierce Courchaine
At its very best, My Morning Jacket seemingly unites two drastically different social realms. The urban hipsters with their PBR and American Spirits can agree with the rural cowboys and their Marlboros and Bud Light on the quality of the group’s music.
But at its worst, MMJ fails to capture the essence of either respected expectations. The group’s sixth studio album, Circuital, is a grab bag of soaring epics and disappointing filler songs.
The two strongest tracks of the album are the first two. “Victory Dance” kicks off with strings and hushed vocals from Jim James. The song is a breath of fresh air for the band as James whispers like a ghost and the strings lasso the listener in to the album.
The song is followed up by the album’s title track and best song “Circuital.” This is where MMJ truly shines. The song pays homage to its southern rock roots with twangy solos and melodies made for listening to while jumping over creeks with a Dodge in Kentucky. Even the tickling piano keys expand the depth of sound and show why MMJ was once an indie darling.
After the first two songs, the album loses its scope and direction. The next two tracks, “The Day Is Coming” and “Wonderful (The Way I Feel),” are forgettable and sound all too much like something the band has written before.
This dark period culminates in the song “Outta My System,” a 3-minute and 22-second song about making mistakes and getting bad habits, you guessed it, out of your system. The opening lines to the song erase any of the band’s rocker cred immediately: “They told me not to smoke drugs / But I wouldn’t Listen / Never thought I’d get caught and wind up in prison / Chalk it up to youth, but young age I ain’t dissin’ / I guess I just had to get it outta my system.” Since when did MMJ become a member of the D.A.R.E. team?
“Holdin’ On to Black Metal” somewhat redeems the last half of the album with its thumping rock stomp and children’s choir. The song might be the best example of the band’s ability to go outside its comfort zone and experiment with different instruments and sounds.
But the experimenting doesn’t last long. With the exception of the crescendo on “First Light,” the final songs remain to be just a bastardization of the group’s earlier work. To its credit, Circuital is the shortest album in the MMJ catalogue. But, then again, it should never be a good thing that being short is a positive aspect.
Score: C+ (77)