Jennifer Castle - Angels of Death

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-05-18
Jennifer Castle - Angels of Death
Jennifer Castle - Angels of Death

I’ve never tired of the talented winds that have blown down from Canada. As The Band (who were 4/5 Canadian) once sang, “Set my compass north, I’ve got winter in my blood.

Jennifer Castle’s Angles of Death is a welcome addition, with a folk sound that branches here and there with great hooks, subtle pop colors, a few warm strings, and an absolutely crystalline voice that glides effortlessly through the songs that flow like melodic rivers to a greater sea.

Or something like that.

“Tomorrow’s Mourning” is a quiet piano/voice introduction to the record. This is fine 70’s singer-songwriter stuff that yearns for something from passion’s depths. But it ends with an abrupt silence, which is suddenly filled with “Crying Shame,” a song that actually lopes with drums, bass, Paul Mortimer’s lead guitar, more piano from Jonathan Adjemian, Jennifer’s incredible voice, and the melodic soulful touch of some great pop tune from the 60’s. This one sticks in the brain.

An acoustic guitar ushers in “Texas,” which is pizza supreme with folk music and a dash of lovely backing vocals on top. I only say that because I really like pizza, and I really like this song. Oh, and those lovely backing voices are the gift of Isla Craig, Victoria Cheong, and Felicity Williams. The same is true for the title tune, “Angels of Death,” which has yet another great chorus, the addition of Stew Crookes’ pedal steel, and a wide-open throttle of a melody that would have pushed the song into the charts back when great tunes still managed through their own merit to get pushed into the charts.

There’s a brief intrude with really nice strings (arranged by Mike Smith) called “We Always Change Reprise Pt 1.” Now, I’m not certain as what is being reprised, but I like that sort of thing in the course of an album, so it’s all right. And then that melodic river turns a deep tone of country as the song “Rose Waterfalls” continues with yet another great chorus. And, truly, the song recalls the beauty of Texas singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa.

But then as the train people say in England, “All Change!” And the album’s soul becomes deeply introspective. The death-themed “Grim Reaper” is back to basics of guitar, voice, and subtle backing. This is simple beauty. The guitar descends while the vocal rises and hovers like a spectral memory. Then “Stars of Milk” (great title!) has a melody that widens the beauty of the song’s theme which deals with “memory, time and space.”   

Jennifer Castle has an absolutely stunning voice.

You know, I would gladly be stranded on a desert island just to say I was happy to have this song in my possession.

This one is a slow and beautiful gift from the generous Muses.

The final real tune, “Tonight the Evening,” brings the ensemble back into the grooves, and it gives an added weight to the album. The melody is more abstract, as it swirls around with psych circles for seven minutes. The universe sings a bit with one.

“We Always Change Reprise” returns, this time as “Pt 2” with vocals and clever strings, curtesy of Ilana Waniuk and Mika Posen on violin and Erika Nielsen on cello. This brief tune manages to conclude the record with the light breeze of a warm farewell.

Yeah, I really love Canadian music. I recently reviewed albums by Kacy & Clayton and The Weather Station (aka Tamara Lindeman). Both are wonderful. And listen to James Keelaghan, Stephen Fearing, Dave Gunning, David Francey, Deep Dark Woods, Rawlins Cross, and Blue Rodeo. It’s all just four strong winds that continue to blow with such lovely northern melodies. Joni Mitchell did that, as did Stan Rogers. Listen to Quebec’s Les Seguin. And, yes, I stumbled upon Charlie’s Record Store years ago in Cheticamp, the lone French area in Nova Scotia. I bought groceries and record albums by the great band Suroit, just because Charlie, the French-Canadian grocer and lover of music, recommended the band.  

And, yes, this album by Jennifer Castle is great enough to, once again, set my compass north because I now have the music of yet another great Canadian artist in my blood. 

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