My Morning Jacket “Circuital”

Posted 28 Sep 2018 in 10s, Albums of 2011, Albums of the 10s, Rock + Roll


Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#982 in the Series) is My Morning Jacket, Circuital

A Review of Circuital ….With a Slight History and Very Public Secret Crush Thrown in.

When I first heard of My Morning Jacket, their genre was described as “Southern Rock”, which instantly made me turn my head and say bleh. Then, shortly thereafter,  WXRT in Chicago played a song from their 2001 Release, At Dawn. (Bermuda Highway). I remember being in the car, pausing, thinking, then saying to myself. “Who the hell was that?”

You see, that was long before I could look anything up in the car, , and I certainly didn’t have the internet at my fingertips, otherwise known as the Pre- iPhone era.  I drove a 2000 minivan without any ability to show me the artists….and I couldn’t text XRT like I can now, so I pushed it back in my head until a series of fortunate events. I didn’t have to wait long, because unbeknownst to me, my husband, not only heard the same song, but went to the store immediately and bought the record.

So, I arrive home to hear the song “Steam Engine” blasting through our Carver stereo, on vinyl, no less. And until your entire house is being filled with Jim James’s voice singing this song, then you couldn’t possibly even understand my passion for this band.  Might take a couple of listens, but consider this investment of your time well worth it. No words can describe how his voice makes me feel, but a few words can describe his voice: angelic, mesmerizing, spiritual, part rock, part soul, part country, all perfection……I equate describing his voice to the number one question I receive at my ice cream parlor, “What does Blue Moon Ice Cream tastes like?” My response is always the same, “I can’t adequately describe it, You just have to TRY it.” Same goes for this band.

Ironically, Jim James said it best in his own lyrics… Why does my mind blow to bits every time they play that song? It’s just the way that he sings, Not the words that he says, or the band.I’m in love with this soul, it’s a meaning that I understand.

And so, my slight obsession starts….

I start to hear this band everywhere, unexpectedly. Imagine my surprise when the only part of the 2007 Bob Dylan movie You’re Not There that had my total attention was an appearance by Jim James singing with Calexico  .Coming from a girl who watches about 4 movies a year, I was so glad I sat through this movie to witness / hear this. A full on love affair ensues, thankfully with the approval of my husband, who was carrying his own “Man Crush” for him.

After that, we caught them at The Chicago Theatre in December 2008 (a postponed show due to an October cancellation because Jim James fell off the stage in Iowa and suffered significant injuries). Had we not had relatives arriving from Florida, we most certainly would have stayed and bought tickets for a second night. And I rarely actually say, do, or even think that about a concert.

The next year was a year of acquiring anything they ever released on Vinyl, and listening to every single song. Repeatedly.

Many serendipitous things have happened to me whilst listening to them, with the last one happening exactly the minute I start to write this review.  Jimmy Kimmel comes on and says My Morning Jacket is playing live. Really? Because I never, ever seem to catch them on actual TV Live, and I don’t have the ability to tape shows, so what a treat for me ….Sorry to rant, now on to Circuital.

Circuital is MMJ’s 6th Studio release, and a completely different sound and style from any of the previous albums.  I heard it unconventionally, definitely not in one uninterrupted sitting.

The first time I heard the song “Circuital” was in June 2010 when MMJ played an outdoor concert at Northerly Island with Califone opening for them….(another great band!). Near the middle of the concert, they snuck in this brand new song named “Circuital” in among their setlist.  , right after the great ballad Golden. Interesting to say the least. The crowd was eerily silent.

The first time you hear a new song at a concert (where you know every lyric of every song) is such a surreal experience. I remember loving it, and when we went to see the epic Terminal 5 Concert in October 2010, (where MMJ played its’ discography in sequence),  the first guitar chord brought it back immediately.

Circuital according to Jim James, defines the act of coming back around where you started. He points out that “going back to your roots” is such a generic term.  “This one is a concise circular journey.” They literally went back to their hometown of Louisville, found an old church gymnasium, forewent the expensive studio,  played live and recorded this album. Because I had been teased with a couple of the songs live, I could barely contain my excitement to hear the whole album. It was a notable day in my life. I remember listening intently,  over and over again. Each song is completely unique but the album is completely tight and concise as a whole. I actually had the amazing experience of seeing them perform this album at The Auditorium Theater June 17, 2011. There are no words to describe that experience, so I shall not even try.

The first track, “Victory Dance,” sets the bar very high. Their lyrics describe the song perfectly “Spinning out gracefully”. There are many components of this song, it’s fast, it’s methodical, it’s spooky, very trance-like, war-like, ritualistic. But ultimately, it harbors curiosity and there isn’t a lull for one second. The seven minute title track, “Circuital” is next, and from the onset of a gong, mixed with a perfect mix of warm guitar and soft voices, it intrigues you. Jim James casts his spell immediately. The song is a remarkable centerpiece to a remarkable album. “The Day is Coming” is next, both pleasant and lyrically interesting, it transitions you perfectly into “Wonderful, the Way I Feel.”  This song does just that. It will make you feel wonderful.

I’m going where there ain’t no police / I’m going where there ain’t no disease / I’m going where there ain’t no need /To escape from what is / Only spirits at ease

I imagine he is describing the perfect Utopia, or a twilled out Heaven. Very Zen like, very tranquil. It will alter your day.  You will play it multiple times.

Switch gears to “Outta My System” and “Holdin’ On To Black Metal”. These songs are about youth rebellion and regret, but you will hear horns, ghostly hollows, a children’s choir, all mixed in with some psychedelic funk and James eerie falsetto. Brilliant. And experimental. Reminds me of their last album “Evil Urges”.

Next up is “First Light”, again, a complete deviation from anything else. It reminds me of a mellow seventies song laced with spirituality. “You Wanna Freak Out” is almost like Jim James is calmly preaching to the youth of the world  almost how to think before they act  “Play it smart, soul intact/How you react is what you’ll get back,”. Then “Slow Slow Tune” is exactly that. A slow, slow tune, albeit perfectly executed in every way.  Finally,  “Movin’ Away” ends the album in complete peace and tranquility. A beautiful quiet piano ballad. Almost as if Jim James is reading his personal diary out loud for us all to hear. You can feel the pain when he sings about leaving home for the sake of love, but most importantly, you can hear the pain. This is one of his best vocal performances on record to date.

I say give Album of The Year to MMJ….Big thumbs up from this Midwest Girl.

–Cathy Brown Brown (Follow Cathy on her blog HERE)

Track listing

All songs written by Jim James.

  1. “Victory Dance” – 5:40
  2. “Circuital” – 7:19
  3. “The Day Is Coming” – 3:17
  4. “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)” – 4:17
  5. “Outta My System” – 3:22
  6. “Holdin’ On to Black Metal” – 4:19
  7. “First Light” – 3:46
  8. “You Wanna Freak Out” – 3:20
  9. “Slow Slow Tune” – 4:31
  10. “Movin’ Away” – 5:13


  • Jim James – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
  • Tom Blakenship – Bass
  • Patrick Hallahan – Drums, Percussion, Programming, Effects
  • Carl Broemel – Guitars, Pedal Steel, Banjo, Saxophone, Trumpet, Vocals
  • Bo Koster – Piano, Keyboards, Synthesizers, Wurlitzer, Vocals


Give the album a listen below

Here’s some live tunes as well

Posted by Larry Carta

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