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I don't want to fall into the trap of suggesting that the best music is unforced and natural in its execution. From Bowie and Madonna to Of Montreal and Kanye (and at many points in between), great numbers of artists have made compelling, engaging and even honest music as a direct result of forced reinventions and unnatural posturing. But all that aside, you’ve gotta give it up for the people who can just address a microphone directly and capture your imagination and ears completely. Especially when their end product is arguably just as mysterious as those of chronic shape-shifting performers.

Jennifer Castle is that type of artist. On her first foray out from under the Castlemusic moniker (which instead becomes an album title—no need to reinvent oneself entirely!), Castle delivers nine songs woven with a timeless, ageless skill. They are tunes of great emotional heft and spiritual weight that still float by like translucent pillows of sound. Part of the appeal of Castle’s music is how she’s able to infuse some rather traditional folk instrumentation with touches of psychedelic wandering, and even menace. On "Neverride", a gentle drifting acoustic stroll is dragged strangely off-path by an intoxicating high warble. Elsewhere, like on the mystic sleepwalk of "Powers" or the mellotron séance of "Misguided", she channels a personality both threatening and benign—it’s remarkable how the same songs can sound equally creepy and gorgeous depending on the moment of listening.

The same can really be said of the whole album. Even on its most energized tune—the shuddering tremolo blues of "Poor As Him"—Castle’s music sits like a static-laden channel-between-channels on your TV dial. Despite having so much in it that you recognize—the flutes, the slide guitar, the percussion—the whole of her songs often feel like they don’t quite exist in an assigned space. And yet, they remain wholly natural and honest. In that way, perhaps the naming of her album wasn’t just a last-minute brain cramp, after all. Castlemusic claims for its namesake a personalized plot of musical territory—both immediately familiar and full of new discoveries. 

(Jennifer Castle will be performing live in our shop on Tue. May 24 at 7pm.)

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