My Morning Jacket: Home Again

Jun 1, 2011
Originally published on June 1, 2011 6:12 pm

There's a song on My Morning Jacket's sixth studio album, Circuital, that will probably make aging rockers smile. It's called "Outta My System," and in it, songwriter Jim James sings with great Buddha warmth about aging out of the Friday-night indulgences of youth.

In one sense, James has lately been doing something similar with his music. He's an adventurous composer, and on earlier albums, he's taken fans down twisty roads far from his base in Southern rock. The experiments have provided the band with interesting dimension; they've also made for some uneven records. Now, having gotten some of that wandering out of his system, James has focused his writing. Most of Circuital offers disarmingly graceful melodies framed by thundering rock chords.

But as James and My Morning Jacket have winnowed things down, they thankfully haven't diluted the core attack. "The Day Is Coming" and "Victory Dance," in particular, have a rousing, purposeful energy to them. Some early reviews of this album have compared its more epic tracks to those found on the classic Who's Next by The Who.

My Morning Jacket recorded the new album in a church gymnasium in Louisville, Ky. Producer Tucker Martine has said he wasn't interested in sonic perfection — he wanted the raw power the band gets in live performance. So he recorded everything, including most of James' lead vocals, at the same time. The results, especially the seven-minute title track, are more support for the argument that recording all at once gives you the best shot at capturing some magic.

In the lifespan of most great rock bands, there's usually a moment when the influences fade away and the band's true originality emerges. It feels like that's what's happening with My Morning Jacket right now. The new album might not be the group's best from top to bottom, but in its peak moments is the sound of a band that knows it has arrived at a streamlined and totally thrilling sound.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Critic Tom Moon says the band's new album, "Circuital," finds them experimenting less but finding their voice in the process.

TOM MOON: There's a new My Morning Jacket song that'll probably make aging rockers smile. It's called "Outta My System."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUTTA MY SYSTEM")

MY MORNING JACKET: (Singing) They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn't listen, never thought I'd get caught and wind up in prison. Chalk it up to youth, (unintelligible). I guess I just had to get it out of my system, out of my system.

MOON: That's songwriter Jim James singing, with great Buddha warmth, about aging out of the Friday night indulgences of youth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUTTA MY SYSTEM")

MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Oh, no, and I'd never do it now. I know what I ain't missing, that I went and got it all out of my system.

MOON: The experiments have provided the band with interesting dimension, but they've also made for some uneven albums. Now, having gotten some of that wandering out of his system, he's focused his writing. Most of this album offers disarmingly graceful melodies framed by thundering rock chords.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Bang, bang, on the door. You open not knowing what for. (Unintelligible)

MOON: Some early reviews have compared the songs to those on the classic "Who's Next" by The Who.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MORNING JACKET: (Singing) Should I close my eyes (unintelligible).

MOON: So he recorded everything, including most of James' lead vocals, all at once. In the lifespan of most great rock bands, there's often a moment where the influences fade away and true originality emerges. It feels like that's what's happening with My Morning Jacket right now.

NORRIS: Sometimes a band really has to go and get its yayas out to discover who it really is.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: Our critic is Tom Moon. He was reviewing the new album from My Morning Jacket called "Circuital." You can hear the entire album at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.