My Morning Jacket’s forthcoming album “Circuital” just leaked today, and this is my very premature analysis of it, track by track. If you haven’t purchased this album, please do it now.
And away we go…
The album opens with a slow building jam called Victory Dance, a reverb laden track that cresendos into madness, a-la The Doors’ The End as the song builds itself into cacophonic uncertainty that’s both unsettling and reassuring. The leftover feedback leads right into the title track, Circuital, a guitar-riff driven track that is one of MMJ’s best songs since 2005’s “Z,” featuring chiming guitars, wailing vocals, and a perfectly written song. The Day Is Coming comes in with a powerful bass line and a nicely staccato rhythm that will certainly make for a fun live song.
And then we get it. Finally. Wonderful (The Way I Feel). Jim James’ beautiful acoustic track which has been left off album after album, forcing fans to cherish their favorite bootlegged versions of it in lieu of a studio version. But here it finally is, and it’s certainly wonderful. Lap steel, acoustic guitar, and James’ crooning rule on this track, along with honky tonk bass and drums to complement this beautifully country song.
But wait, what’s next? Is that Roger Daltry? Not only does James sound spookily like Daltry on Outta My System, but the lyrics even echo “Tommy”-era The Who, opening with “They told me not to smoke drugs, but I didn’t listen.” But this song is definitely My Morning Jacket – beautiful, churning, jammy, and well-crafted.
Holding On To Black Metal comes next, and if you’ve listened to any of James’ pre-MMJ stuff, it’s clear that this is a musician whose education was rooted in 80s metal. This track, however, is very much not a metal song. So what aspect of black metal is Jim holding onto? It’s not so clear, but by the time you start thinking about it, the song takes hold and you stop caring about anything but the thumping beat and all around fun of this song. Which leads into First Light, which sounds like a cover of a Beatles song that no one’s ever heard. From the bluesy guitar opening riff, to the way Jim sings, to the the Paul-esque bassline – this song sounds like it came out of Liverpool in the last 60s. This is a good thing. A very good thing, and proves that James is up there with the best songwriters ever. But I digress. Back to the album!
You Wanna Freak Out opens like a early 2000s Dave Matthews song, and sounds entirely different from anything MMJ has ever done. It’s upbeat and …. Ok. So my copy of the leak isn’t perfect and the rest of the song crapped out. More on this track later.
Slow Slow Tune is exactly as described. A very slow tune. In my opinion, James’ voice is at it’s best when he’s singing low, and his baritone shines through here, even dropping to a bass for a few notes. Think the dance at the end of Back to The Future; this is basically a slow dance song. Except, it’s not, because it’s also a My Morning Jacket song, and gets loud and wonderful towards the end, with a short but appropriately biting solo, as the guitars are turned up and begin to get a bit more play for the remainder of the song. It’s rock. It’s country. It’s what My Morning Jacket does best.
The album closes out with Movin Away, a piano driven song that solidifies this album as marking My Morning Jacket’s return to their roots. Nothing has sounded this country since 1999’s “The Tennessee Fire.” This is a band that has explored their roots, their jam-band interests, their funk driven randomness, and every other musical genre known to man. And this is a band that has excelled at them all. So just like I’m not sure what James is talking about with regard to black metal, I’m not sure what he thinks he’s moving away from. If anything, this is a band that has conquered the world, and is now returning home.
So get out there and buy the album if you haven’t yet. Seriously. Do it now. If you stream the tracks below, you’re contractually obligated to buy the album. Ok, I’m kidding, but you should really buy it. It’s really quite good.
My Morning Jacket – Victory Song
My Morning Jacket – Outta My System