Like a set of connections, My Morning Jacket has always been able to piece their albums together around a basis of solid strengths. Besides being a band that has come and gone through Southern rock and a folk standby, their eclectic breed of styles has introduced gnarly smashers (“Off the Record”) and flourishing breaths of fresh air (“The Way That He Sings”) with the one constant forever being Jim James’ gorgeous voice. It’s taken quite some time now – too long if you ask me – but in energizing their connections to deliver directly clear paths, the mesmerizing band has returned with another bona fide beauty in Circuital.
The magic of the album lies in the band’s heart and even on something free-forming and carefree as “You Wanna Freak Out,” the passages are decorated with chugging guitars and drums. Gone are the invigorating risks like on the conflict-ridden “Highly Suspicious” – where many supposed fans were left confused and dumbfounded for their own pretentious reasons – in favor of reflective, much more tranquil settings. On “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” James is highlighted by a radiant acoustic guitar that justly allows for the singer’s voice to tower over the composition like a shimmering star in the sky. The warmness of the song is an instant lull – with its filling strings and atmospherics – that its second movement of optimism is a gentle lift. The directness of an album like Circuital will maintain more of an immediate impact than the erstwhile Evil Urges but with a developing, always-moving-forward band like My Morning Jacket, one would expect nothing less.
Simply listening to the title track and how it weaves through a set of rousing intervals is a stunning work of art in itself. James continues to amaze with a voice that is as enigmatically touching as it is impeccably flawless and through all of their complimentary words, the foundation for a song like “Circuital” is still build-up and release. Setting the tone with a tapping drum, the music lets loose before James finally calls out, “Circuits, all in and out…connect my body, deep into the ground.” Through the intertwined melodies and the introduction of a sparkling keyboard line, the music flows out of the band like a smooth wine.
All of this isn’t to say that the band has entirely lost hope on being able to be somewhat playful still. It seems like it’s taken forever but My Morning Jacket have finally caught on and a song like “Holdin’ on to Black Metal” is a triumphant reason why. Soaring with pounding drums and a retro, 70s-like, menacing bass line, the children’s choir is a wonderful touch. And earlier, on the exceptional “The Day is Coming,” the band picks up on the grooves and beats they recruited from The Roots for a song that is both booming and blasting with stellar songwriting. A song before, James sung about, “Well you can fling open the windows, or you can board them up” and now he sings, “Bang, bang on your door…if opportunity rears its head, will you answer or stay home in bed?” The calling is a query that many of us take for granted but in the most direct of ways – with an entrancing, sing-along, ‘ba-da-da-da-da’ melody in the background – My Morning Jacket definitely know how to combine great music with great words.
Music has a funny way of being misunderstood and Evil Urges suffered, not from a lack of special music, but due to a lack of clear understanding by fans. While it’s still confusing to hear people complain about silly reasons, Circuital ensures that any possible doubt in the band is visibly out of the way. Allowing their music to be filled with the goodness they inevitably churn out, My Morning Jacket has embraced the electrical currents that connect their music. With a diverse, delectable and yes, envied catalog, they can add an assured release to an already massive list.