On 2008’s Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket pushed their music to the breaking point. What was supposed to be a musical melting pot -- with funk, Southern rock, country, and neo-psychedelia all mixed in -- wound up coalescing like a mixed plate of genuine hits (“I’m Amazed”) and overcooked duds (“Highly Suspicious”). The album marked a creative milestone for My Morning Jacket, but it also hinted at their inability to reign themselves in, to realize their limits and tailor their experiments accordingly. The guys hit the reset button on Circuital, which sounds like Evil Urges’ older, (slightly) wiser brother. This isn’t a conventional rock album by any means, and My Morning Jacket rarely waste an opportunity to dive down the creative rabbit hole and see what exists on the other side. ‘70s rock epics, trippy pop waltzes, piano ballads, Motown metal fusions, and orchestral folk songs are what they come up with, and the album rarely explores the same sound twice, bouncing between amalgamated genres with purpose and a sly grin. There’s humor here, of course -- “Holdin’ on the Black Metal” combines a children’s choir with funky brass and fuzztone guitars, and Jim James hums the victorious horn riff in “Victory Dance” like he’s doing an impression of “The Final Countdown” -- but there’s no talk of “peanut butter pudding surprise,” and most of the jokes hit their mark. My Morning Jacket are clearly having fun, and they’re learning how to be “out there” without being outlandish.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey