(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, May 30, 2011

CD review - My Morning Jacket, Cicuital (2011)

If 2008's Evil Urges signaled a change of direction for My Morning Jacket, Cicuital continues the band's evolution through further regression. The buzz around Circuital has focused on the band reinvigorating themselves and getting back to their roots. But My Morning Jacket is not revisiting the sound of their earlier albums so much as mining a blend of retro sounds. True to their ambivalence to genre, the sounds on this album wander through soundtrack moments, psychedelic jams, and ballads. In addition to the classic tone, Jim James and the band fill Circuital with a soulful vibe.

The album gets off to a strong start with Victory Dance. The intro is a bit ambient with soundtrack horns providing drive and tension, but the song quickly slides into a Supertramp style mix of progressive and mild psychedelia. The open sense of space, from good sonic separation and a moderate reverb, fits well with the tension as the song builds. The break brings in a tribal beat and a sense of a ritual viewed in the distance. The song collapses back into ambient sounds and a perfect fade in for the title track.

For me, Circuital's peak is Holding on to Black Metal. The soulful horn pop is savagely retro and bluesy. The sinuous, meandering guitar/bass line sounds like a theme for some alternate James Bond movie. There's a lot going on here that contrasts yet meshes, even down to the falsetto vocals that slink through a surprising lyrical theme:
It's a darkness you can't deny,
But it don't belong in a grownup mind
Distortion finds its place in a youngster's eyes
Coming into life, you need its grind
But innocent boy, you gotta let it go
Or it will cross the permanent threshold
You know you gotta find it out in somethin' else good
Oh black metal, you're so misunderstood
Circuital romps through a series of styles: a low fi version of '70s pop (The Day is Coming), an acoustic ballad (Wonderful (The Way I Feel)), and even an acid rock tinged Who/Rolling Stones jam (First Light). The mix is unpredictable but My Morning Jacket plays it all with casual sincerity. I'll raise a glass of Belgian farmhouse ale in tribute: every sip tastes a little different.


No comments:

Post a Comment