In Opening Track, we take an early look at a forthcoming record that we’re excited about. Today, we check out the first My Morning Jacket album in three years, Circuital, which comes out May 31.
Why we’re excited: Didn’t you read the previous sentence? This is the first MMJ release since 2008’s polarizing Evil Urges. While the band’s records are still somewhat overshadowed by its justly celebrated live shows, MMJ did put out two of the more imposing rock albums of the ’00s with ’03’s It Still Moves and ’05’s Z.
What we’ve heard: No matter your opinion on Evil Urges, there’s no question that the record’s flirtations with R&B and overall mixtape vibe didn’t register with a sizeable portion of MMJ’s fanbase. It seems that the band has implicitly acknowledged this with Circuital, a concise, straight-on rock album that was recorded live to tape in MMJ’s hometown of Louisville, Ken. Not that Jim James has stopped throwing curveballs—the record’s least conventional track is “Holdin' On To Black Metal,” where James revives the silk-soul falsetto of Urges over a shambling mess of horns and choral voices.
In Rolling Stone, keyboardist Bo Koster said James instructed the band to make it "sound like we're Cuban or Cambodian kids, and we're wearing berets and we're walking through an alley and we stumble upon this band, and it explodes into this crazy sing-along.” Then MMJ promptly performed the giddily sloppy, kitchen-sink take that ended up on the record. Two other tracks from Circuital, the contemplative “Out Of My System” and the pretty folk ballad “Wonderful,” were originally written for a proposed Muppets concert tour where MMJ would’ve performed as the band behind a curtain, Gorillaz-style. (Sadly, this tour no longer appears to be happening.)
Other times on Circuital, recording live gives the album the sense of majesty you usually only get from MMJ in a concert setting. The title track is the band’s biggest rock moment on record in years, building from James’ soft vocal and acoustic guitar strumming to exhilarating cascades of twirling pianos and electric soloing. Like much of Circuital, it sounds really good on record, and promises to sound fantastic live.
Have a listen: Here’s the title song—and an early favorite track—from Circuital.