By Court Mann
My Morning Jacket seems to fit in nowhere and everywhere, all at the same time. The Kentucky natives have built a career on musical alchemy, melding elements of countless music genres and sub-genres into their own unique cocktail, while somehow still staying true to their un-ironic southern charm. One can’t really pin a label on them — they’re just too slippery for that.
They took their genre-hopping to new heights on 2008’s “Evil Urges” — an album that brilliantly explored endless styles while remaining cohesive. Their new record, “Circuital,” reigns in the schizophrenia somewhat. And though it might not have the energy of their other recent work, “Circuital” still showcases the ever-intuitive genius that set the band in a class of its own.
On the surface, “Circuital” feels more subdued and patient than MMJ’s last couple albums. But that doesn’t mean the songs are any less ambitious. Rather, that ambition is slightly restructured. Instead of compartmentalizing the diversity from song to song, “Circuital” mixes all the ingredients together, then spreads them out over 10 songs.
Indeed, this mixture makes the musical references less discernible than before. And, at times, such mixtures are pretty thrilling, none more so than on “Holdin’ On To Black Metal” — inspired by a song the band heard on a 1960s Thai-pop compilation CD. The track creeps in subtly with bubbling bursts of horns, only to be interrupted by the hook — an exhilarating, menacing chant, sung by what sounds like an army of foreign youth. (Think the children’s choir in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.”)
Recorded in a church gymnasium in their Louisville, Ky., hometown, MMJ purposely wanted “Circuital” to be a more concise, contained album. They certainly achieve this, but maybe at a cost. Most of these new songs are just not as strong as on their previous two albums — mainly because they lack that energy. This patient tone might help “Circuital” age better than the band’s other work. Or it might not. The album’s fate, like everything else MMJ does, is pretty unpredictable.
Regardless, “Circuital” is the sound of a band unrelentingly following its many muses. And, clearly, My Morning Jacket wouldn’t have it any other way.
Artist: My Morning Jacket