reviewed by Laura Stanley
Take all of your ideas about what a city feels like (chaotic, polluted, panic-filled) and quickly dismiss them. Jennifer Castle’s Pink City, in contrast, is a place built on clarity, level-headedness, and, in turn, filled with a sense of calmness. It is with this album’s atmosphere that allows Castle’s multiple talents and all of those involved in building Pink City, to shine. In all, Castle delivers one of the strongest folk records of the year.
On the record’s surface, Castle’s standout trait is her voice. Rooted in a time that is not our own, it holds a rich and multi-dimensional tone. Always in control, she varies between a lulling croon (“Truth is the Freshest Fruit”), a more playful temperament (“How or Why”), and spine-tingling wails (“Sailing Away,” “Pink City”). Digging a little deeper, listeners will discover lyrics on both a micro and macro scale. Between the more personal or general worldly observations, Castle has a knack for characterizing the little things which are often the most important.
In the opener and symbolically titled “Truth is the Freshest Fruit,” Owen Pallett’s contributing string arrangements, which are featured throughout the record, provide a solid backing for the emotional pitches of the song. With its hearty instrumental build, Castle cries out, “can anybody hear me? I speak clearly,” for one of many emotionally rich songs.
For another poignant and full number, some of Castle’s most impressive vocal work comes in the record’s first single, “Sailing Away.” In a song that speaks of fearless freedom, Castle let’s out a stunning cry of liberation around the two minute mark that makes from an incredible moment in the album.
The idea of the utopian rural escape from the daily grind is brought to song in one of the standouts, “Sparta.” With a melodic flute scattered throughout, provided by Ryan Driver, “Sparta’s” description of the changing seasons is easy to cling to this time of year but it’s Castle’s ability to transport you to “the farm that we saw all summer” that’s particularly impressive.
Despite the at times downcast folk style, Castle sprinkles a lighthearted touch throughout Pink City. Whether it’s the throat clearing as found in the upbeat and melodious “Down River,” the line “I lift my skirt for the economy” from the darker piano driven “Nature,” or the various background noises in “How or Why,” the weightiness of the album feels much lighter.
Timing in at a little over the half an hour mark, Pink City ends. Driven by a saxophone (Brodie West) that is a great partner to Castle’s vocals, the album’s title track feels like a moment of reflection taken at the end of the day. “Pink City” oozes with emotional complexity and one of numerous examples from the album of the strong folk songwriter craftsmanship that is still alive and well today.
Get lost in Pink City.
Top Tracks: “Sparta,” “Down River,” “Sailing Away”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*