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Not really been talking much about the new My Morning Jacket, have I?

12/06/2011

It’s because it’s not really left much of an impression on me and despite giving it a fair bit of time, other things keep stealing my attention because it just isn’t holding it well enough. It’s… a swell album, I suppose?

I can’t say my knowledge of My Morning Jacket is particularly deep – at the moment I’m only familiar with Z and Evil Urges, both of which I love. So this isn’t really an expert opinion. But while you can say a fair few good things about the new Circuital, most notably the fact that it’s enjoyable, it’s not really creating any of the sort of spark its two predecessors did from the get-go. I’ve been giving Circuital a fair few listens and the main feeling it raises is one that’s slightly nonchalant about the whole deal.

I know I say this a lot, to the point of it being a bit of a cliché and probably cause of speculation for some people that I’m afraid of saying negative things, but Circuital isn’t a bad album at all. Like said, it’s enjoyable. But there are many levels of enjoyability, ranging from being able appreciate something that’s just playing faintly in the background to straight-up obsessive love. Circuital’s enjoyability levels are such that it’s good to listen to but it doesn’t really stick out too much. There’s the sort of thought going around that why should I listen to Circuital if I’m in a MMJ mood when there’s other, far more successful albums to pick? It doesn’t really make much break from the past two albums, bar toning down the more direct and openly poppy nature of Evil Urges, and it’s the sort of album that if you’re a My Morning Jacket fan (be it a newcomer like me or a long-time one), you know exactly what you’re going to get here. On one hand, that means it keeps the band’s general standards. On the other, it also means it’s not particularly exciting or interesting. And that’s the crux of its issues: it doesn’t really make a case for itself.

There are two absolutely fantastic moments on Circuital. One is the title track, a long, growing and flowing groove-along that suits its title perfectly: everything in it is very smooth and seems to go round and round, from the general structure to the song’s signature guitar riff. The other one is the lead single “Holdin on to Black Metal” that is, pardon my language, a batshit insane pop masterpiece that merges together humongous WHOA-OH-OH-OH shouting choirs, horn orchestras, rock-out solos, suave falsetto singing, a general desire to be as loud as possible and lyrics about how black metal is pretty cool. It’s completely off-the-rails mad in an insanely great way and is a surefire top 10 candidate when we’re discussing 2011’s best new songs. And the eight other songs are… there. They’re enjoyable. They sometimes do nifty things. There’s a wide spread of sounds. But I’ll be damned if any of them really go beyond acceptable-level enjoyability. It’s a bit been-there-done-that that’s lacking the general sense of carefree madness and unadulterated joy I’ve come to associate with MMJ’s music. The songcraft etc are okay but the spirit is lacking this time.

Why this ramble has basically taken such a fair amount of time is because I’ve found it hard really come up with things to say about Circuital because it’s not really making my meters noticeably tick in either direction. It seems to be an album that’s just there in all its enjoyability but doesn’t really grab your attention.

It’s swell, I suppose.


Holdin on to Black Metal

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