The title of My Morning Jacket’s “Circuital” seems to hint at a return to the band’s original sound, but really it just means that the ill-advised, undercooked glam-funk of 2008’s “Evil Urges” has mercifully been eliminated. MMJ is a live band at its core, and the first two tracks on “Circuital” will surely be the centerpieces of many concerts to come.
A rubbery synth line helps opener “Victory Dance” slither along, its slightly sinister tone enhanced by James’s mystical one-liners. His voice has always been the band’s greatest asset: a high-pitched warble that can elegantly float above or cut through whatever din is created. When he simply howls the words “setting sun” repeatedly, he conveys a sense of ominous heaviness.
The title track is closer to the classic MMJ sound — a seven-minute scorcher centered on some lost Allman Brothers Band acoustic guitar riff that features some serious solos and James bellowing with enough power to reach the back of any amphitheater.
The band doesn’t really try to match these twin peaks, and the rest of the 10 songs trade off between minimally adorned ballads (“Wonderful,” “Movin’ Away”), upbeat rockers (“First Light,” “The Day Is Coming”) and the occasional silly idea (the kids-chorus misfire “Holdin’ On to Black Metal”). But even that one might sound righteous in concert.
--David Malitz, May 31, 2011