There’s something quite freeing about the latest release from Jennifer Castle. The Canadian songwriter has always had a charming quality of disarmament, but on Monarch Season she’s created a folk masterpiece that slowly peels back the layers of the listener with each song. By the time the last song fades away into the colors of the clouds, the listener can feel the grass growing between their veins. Its such a natural, unfettered vision of folk in 2020 that the record almost feels as if we’re listening across some extra-dimensional echo from the past or a ripple from a future in which the gardens of the Earth are more tended by the caretakers than they are now.
Castle’s rooted this album in the enduring wonder of nature, which against all odds persists in some of the most amazing ways despite what we throw into the mix. It’s an unlikely beacon of hope in a year of uncertainty — an album centered around the migration of butterflies, yet stretching its winds wide to blow through social upheaval, personal tragedy, and stability brought low by the smallest consistencies. With just an unfurnished piano or strum, Castle can captivate. The songs lap at the listener like night waves, entranced by the silver stroke of the moon. Her voice stretches in the headphones — comforting as cashmere and often feeling twice as delicate — but also so enveloping that it seems no force could ever shake it. If a single tear of quiet release had a soundtrack to its fall, this may well be it.
Castle’s never come this close to hearth songs. These feel at times like homecomings, a soft whistle in to the family to gather from all corners, and the inclusion of a book of sheet music with the LP speaks her feeling of weaving this LP into the fabric of sing-a-long comfort that comes from closeness. Its a bygone pastime to gather loved ones and sooth through song, but Castle makes a good case here.
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