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My Morning Jacket - Circuital - ATO

It’s not characteristic (or suggested) to celebrate a win before you even play the game. But for My Morning Jacket, we’ll make an exception. On their new full-length album and first since 2008’s Evil Urges, MMJ open the curtains with a song called “Victory Dance.” While it may seem bold, the ominous opener turns out to be a good litmus test for this new collection as Jim James and his counterparts reconnect us to their shape-shifting brand of rock and roll.

Aside from the album’s momentous title track, Circuital plays a bit more straightforward that Evil Urges. The songs rely more on the band’s rock sensibilities and James’ dynamic persona and less so on expansive funky jams. The recording process differed as well as the band returned to Louisville, Kentucky to work on the new album. Setting up in an old gymnasium and recording most of the album live, the band recaptures the cohesiveness and energy that makes their stage show so adored. And they still sound like a band possessed on the quirky “Outta My System” and boundless on rollercoaster rockers like “First Light.” Perhaps the album’s top two moments come in two completely different forms further distinguishing MMJ has an amoeba of rock and roll. Start with the falsetto driven first single “Holdin’ on to Black Metal” where Jim James surfs on “Lucifer’s beach.” From there, wind down with the shimmering ballad “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” James’ most intimate moment since “Golden.”

Time between records was spent by most band members (notably James and guitarist Carl Broemel) collaborating on other projects. Jim of course recorded his solo tribute album to George Harrison and was part of the Monsters of Folks supergroup. Yet with Circuital, My Morning Jacket regroups at a time where the rock could stand an injection of unpredictability and stadium size anthems. And with this latest batch they deliver.

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