Published Oct 14, 2020Every album that Jennifer Castle makes feels like a guidebook on how to live. On her previous two records released under her own name — 2014's Pink City and 2018's Angels of Death — Castle sings of nature, love, death and their interwoven beauty. On her new record, Monarch Season, Castle returns to these themes, but this time she performs her songs in a minimalist setting. Her messages, in turn, feel louder, even though you will find yourself instinctively leaning in to catch every moment.
Primarily recorded at Castle's home in Port Stanley, ON, with producer Jeff McMurrich, Monarch Season is a simple record but it poses big questions: "Justice, my sister, I need you this very hour. Where are you?" Castle asks on "Justice." On "Broken Hearted," she asks, "What becomes of a broken hearted? Will they ever heal? Will they ever love again?" These questions blossomed under the glow of the moon, a source of wonder and strength for Castle, who, about the album, writes, "[Monarch Season] is a reminder to cherish openly that which reflects off and onto me. A reminder that stone orbs only become meaningful moons when they experience the gravity and light of others."
Castle is the lone musician on Monarch Season, playing guitar, piano and harmonica, and the songs thrive in this quiet. On "NYC," Castle distills the din of a busy city into tender blows of a harmonica, and, on "I'll Never Walk Alone," Castle and a roving guitar melody guide you through cavernous anxieties until the absurdity of being alive seems a little more manageable: "I'll never walk alone or be homeless / My home is forever my bones." Through the windows that were left open during recording, the sounds of nature flow through Monarch Season and cover you. Do you hear the wind? The crickets?
On the album's title track, a goosebump-inducing ballad, Castle traces the flight path of a butterfly with a simple piano melody. It's a song that reminds you to cherish each moment you are gifted, because as quickly as the flap of a butterfly's wing, things can change. But right now "the butterfly days are here," and there is beauty to behold. (Idée Fixe)