Some three star reviews reflect a surprise enjoyment. Or maybe a solid effort from a decent band. Others, like in this case, represent disappointment from bands that otherwise seem to be able to make fantastic music without trying.
Depressing intro, right? I am—and will remain—an avid and unabashed My Morning Jacket fan. From “One Big Holiday” on It Still Moves to “Off the Record” from Z to “Thank You Too!” on Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket is an exciting, genre-bending force to be reckoned with. Those brilliant moments are flashed multiple time on the new record, Circuital, but are not sustained, unfortunate as that is. Circuital is an album with no true missteps, but all too many shrugs of averageness. This is made even more unfortunate by the strong start of the album, with the slow burning “Victory Dance” building and building before giving way to the 7 minute “Circuital”. We are then blessed with the enormously strong “The Day is Coming”, one of the year’s best tracks, sung over humming strings. Well then mid-tempo “The Day is Coming” settles onto the soft, sweet “Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”, the album seems set to build upon the stellar body of work My Morning Jacket has built to this point.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing really amazing left. Tracks like the growing-up tale “Outta My System” and the fuzzy “Holdin’ Onto Black Metal” attempt to be the kind of forays into weirdness that fans are used to, but they come up restrained and un-special (my wife tells me I’m wrong about the latter track). Even the much-hated and much-loved “Highly Suspicious” from Evil Urges had an exciting, odd feel to them that these tracks, and frankly no tracks here have.
The pleasantness that are “You Wanna Freak Out” and “Movin Away” don’t redeem the middle either, and the album ends simply as a shruggable, non-cohesive collection of tracks that’s true strength is all spent up front. Here is an album I waited years for, only to have it quickly dismissed by new albums from Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie. Here’s hoping the years will be kind to this one, because repeat album play does not seem to be in its future, especially compared with the other great albums from My Morning Jacket sitting just inches away on my iTunes screen.