Brushing aside the questionable electronics and falsetto that marked 2008's Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket returns to prime form on its sixth album, Circuital.
This time around, the bearded Kentucky quintet sticks to alt-country, psych and sweeping rock 'n' roll. Nevertheless, the album stands alone in the context of MMJ's repertoire: It's neither derivative nor a rehash of past records. It extends into exploratory ground, while expanding on the authentic and influential style that the band developed during the past decade.
Circuital starts out big with the glowing and ominous "Victory Dance," coupled with the seven-minute behemoth title track, an expansive anthem that delves into Southern rock and arena-ready hooks. Recorded primarily live in a Louisville, Ken., church, the album benefits from this loose and bristly approach, especially on songs like the slow-burning "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," or the gentle ballad "Movin' Away," where Jim James' soft, touching voice cracks under the weight of his delicate lyrics.
By the album's middle section, the band is firing on all cylinders. The chugging, steel guitar-laced "Outta My System," the splashy, chorus-filled hard-rocking "Holdin' on to Black Metal," and the escalating, horn-filled romp of "First Light" combine and build momentum into an exhilarating section of mouth-watering rock 'n' roll.
Circuital isn't a game changer, and it doesn't leave the mark that It Still Moves or Z did, but it's still a solid and rewarding effort and a great addition to the band's already stellar discography. More than anything, the 10 tracks on Circuital sound prepped and ready to make delightful additions to the band's legendary and glorious live performances.