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Album review: My Morning Jacket's 'Circuital'

May 31, 2011 |  1:39 pm

My-Morning-Jacket-Circuital My Morning Jacket, on its sixth studio album and after establishing itself as one of the most monstrously compelling live acts of the last 10 years, returns to a more disciplined form on “Circuital,” a welcome tightening of the reins after the downright goofball antics of 2008’s “Evil Urges.”

On both records, the band digs outside its dusted country roots to incorporate barroom soul, glistening R&B and the chugging twists and turns borrowed from prog-rock. It's a game of musical tag that keeps My Morning Jacket limber, if not always focused, but on "Circuital," the genre experiments seem guided by a watchful eye. (If that eye is anything like the penetrating neon-green iris on the album's cover, you wouldn't want to run amok either.)

There are moments when the bear-voiced Jim James and company sound as if they’re scraping an old dinner plate for a last lick, retreading what they've done better elsewhere, but then they strike on something inspired enough to renew their license to rock-trot all over the globe.

The title track, soaked in atmosphere that veers from a stealth synth backdrop to open-hearted strumming, hangs on a pristine needle of a guitar part. “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” built from a Thai pop song and with a children's chorus thrown in, is giving Lucifer the shivers -- or it's the theme to a neverending James Bond movie, screening in hell's cineplex. Either way, MMJ has given itself plenty to work with onstage. “Hello, Tokyo,” you can practically hear James saying. “Looking good tonight!”

My Morning Jacket
Three stars (Out of four stars)

-- Margaret Wappler