Not enough folk artists are making “headphone” music, strange for a genre arguably more interested in privacy than all other kinds of pop. Folk music rarely has cause to envelope the listener, preferring open acoustics and expansive imagery to sonic affectations. Enter Jennifer Castle’s Castlemusic, an odd, fascinating record that requires of the listener some real attention, while at the same time rewarding even the most passive audience with powerful, accessible melodies.
Fundamentally strong songwriting aside, Castle’s sharpest tool is certainly her voice, a high-register coo that works alone, as in the haunting “Misguided”, or supported by a full band, like the rockabilly bent of “Poor as Him”, which feels something like Wanda Jackson covering Springsteen’s “Open All Night”. No doubt Castle’s experience performing vocals for rock groups like Fucked Up and The Constantines has enhanced her confidence. Up until this solo debut, her job has seemed to involve making herself heard against wailing testosterone, but left to her own devices, the confidence is disarming.
Second, we have her sly, frequently acidic lyrics, some of the best from any Toronto folk performer in years. Even on a relatively quiet track like “Neverride”, an apparent ode to artists reclaiming their lives from poverty, her delivery stings, her lyrics landing without the least bit of phony wistfulness. Timid, it ain’t. “You Don’t Have to Be” and “Remembering” paint dark portraits of domestic life, dripping with realistic details.
At a brief 31 minutes, Castlemusic is a perfectly contained piece of work, with almost no visible indulgence. But I wouldn’t call Castle overly cautious; in the details, between the lines, there is a lot of ambition here. A lot of power, too, not in volume but in the basic strength of songwriting. One of the year’s most memorable debuts.
buy her album here: http://www.flemisheye.com/jennifer-castle