To be clear, the album is no front-to-back masterpiece — but the band has remembered how to sell even their slighter tracks with a combination of conviction and a good sense of space. One of the reasons My Morning Jacket is a guaranteed presence at most major festivals is because of the band’s ability to balance their bombastic, night-sky-filling choruses with patient, nearly-empty passages of ghostly instrumentation. That skill serves them well on Circuital, particularly on the title track and its follow-up, “The Day is Coming.”
As far as those lesser tracks are concerned, there’s not really much of a song underneath the cheeky confessionals of “Outta My System,” nor the muscular guitars of “First Light,” but My Morning Jacket plays forcefully and passionately enough to more than compensate for either song’s deficiencies. The band is in classic rock mode here, cross-referencing favorite arena-rock moves with unexpected, yet totally appropriate, detours into spooky funk (“Holdin’ on to Black Metal”) and the occasional airy waltz (“You Wanna Freak Out”).
Most of the time, that reverence works well (“Circuital,” in particular, should make any fan of The Who smile). Every once in a while, My Morning Jacket accidentally wanders into Stillwater territory (opener “Victory Dance”), where the sound becomes almost a parody of the bands they admire. But this a band that always balances obvious populism with choices that are going to cock a few eyebrows. Circuital is an album about growth and accepting your nature, and a few awkward choices here and there are, well, natural. It certainly doesn’t hinder the listener’s ability to admire and enjoy how much this band has matured.