My Morning Jacket

Circuital (ATO)

Phases & Stages

My Morning Jacket

Circuital (ATO)

In the dozen years since debut long-player The Tennessee Fire sparked My Morning Jacket's rise out of Louisville, Ky., the quintet redefined Southern rock for the new millennium in a reverb-raked haze and then shredded it, becoming one of the nation's top live acts along the way. By naming sixth studio LP Circuital, Jim James' gang consciously calls for comparisons to the band's earlier catalog, and indeed, much of the album evokes MMJ's roots more so than the guitars on 2005's Z or the absurd, genre-bent travesty of 2008's Evil Urges. Although the group returned home for recording and much of Circuital winds an introspective and reflective air, the album's less a 360-degree recoil than it is a cycling upward. Sonically, the band lays in rich, lush grooves, from the slow-burned surge of opener "Victory Dance" into the beautifully wrought turns of the title track, culling classic James wails with an intoxicating brew of 1970s-inspired strums. Circuital's first half unfolds a pace of mellow, spiritually redeeming visions via "The Day Is Coming" and "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" before ceding to the amusing narrative of reformed delinquency on "Outta My System" and the riveting, funk-infused calamity of "Holdin On to Black Metal," both contorting unexpectedly and yet thrilling where similar reaches on Evil Urges flailed. "First Light" scrawls a fuzzed bass line against the sway of "You Wanna Freak Out," fading into the smoky wistfulness of closers "Slow Slow Tune" and "Movin Away." Ultimately, Circuital charts My Morning Jacket's return home with success now firmly under their belts, proving they've lost none of their Southern-jammed charm while perched atop the second act of an already sky-high career.

***.5

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