Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Recording and performing up until now under the moniker Castlemusic, Toronto’s Jennifer Castle released her new LP, called, fittingly, Castlemusic, under her own name. Perhaps it signifies a new commitment to her craft; Castle’s quiet folk arrangements have always had a biting edge, and here they’re at their most direct, with added instrumentation giving Castlemusic not only a richer, full-album feel, but also lending an added sophistication to a talent that shouldn’t be under the radar for much longer.
If you haven’t heard of Castle, it’s still very possible you have heard her—she’s lent her voice out around town, contributing to albums by Fucked Up and the Constantines (records also recorded and/or produced by Jeff McMurrich, who handled Castlemusic as well as her 2008 LP, You Can’t Take Anyone). She’s found a good home in eccentric Calgary label Flemish Eye for this release, too; Castle may not be as idiosyncratic as labelmate Chad VanGaalen, but there’s an intangible eeriness at play on Castlemusic. Maybe its the warbly wash over the otherwise classic-country siren song “Poor As Him” (streaming above), or the notes pulled just-so in the beautiful “Way of the Crow,” where Castle’s voice is crystalline, swinging Joni-esque from chilling falsetto to a soulful near-whisper—and let’s not even talk about the harmonies on that lilting second verse. Too good for words.
“Remembering,” one of the slowest and sparsest songs on the album, hits hard unexpectedly, starting with a simple, almost sprightly delivery of the lyrics: “The only thing I have to do today/is to get to the garden/to pick some sage.” But quickly Castle turns maudlin, singing, so measured: “And all I have to do today/is get past remembering,” over a stark piano—and, suddenly, it’s just devastating. The album is full of little moments that catch you off guard. They’re worth finding. Castlemusic is a little bit wistful, but it’ll also get under your skin in the best way, when tradition is tempered with restless soul and creativity. It’s a standout in Canadian music so far this year, a quiet record that is sure to make a lot of noise.