Jennifer Castle – Monarch Season

Jennifer Castle
Monarch Season
Toronto, ON
Idée Fixe/Paradise of Bachelors
RIYL: Linda Perhacs; Kath Bloom; dad-mode Bill Callahan

Over the past 15 years, Jennifer Castle has quietly built up a devoted following with her beautiful, humane folk music. From her early days at intimate Toronto venues like the Tranzac Club and Double Double Land to her jam-packed winter solstice concerts each December, she has spent the past decade recording and performing with a large band, adding pieces to her caravan until it became a choogling country-rock chuckwagon. That changed in 2019 when Castle’s solo tour dates opening for Neko Case inspired her to make her sixth LP completely on her lonesome, returning to the spare sound of her origins as Castlemusic

Finding time away from work as a doula, Castle was joined by producer Jeff McMurrich in her rural home by Lake Erie. Recording with the light of the moon and the sound of the water lapping through her windows, she wove together the understated sonic tapestry of Monarch Season with only her voice, acoustic guitar, piano, and a healthy dose of harmonica. On these nine songs, Castle’s quivering voice and unhurried melodic approach meditates on big ideas including justice, the environment, and how cities aren’t changing fast enough to keep up with their problems. 

In a sly nod to soul singer Jimmy Ruffin, Monarch Season closes with Castle posing the question “what becomes of the broken hearted?” She might not have an immediate answer, but does believe in bringing troubled people together, packing sheet music inside copies of the album so anyone can sing and play along. 

Jesse Locke  

Shabason, Krgovich & Harris
Philadelphia 
Idée Fixe 
Toronto, ON
RIYL: Bill Callahan; Japanese New Age; mindfulness 

Philadelphia is both timely and timeless. Shababson, Krgovich & Harris lazer in on daily life and the mundane, turning inward back when it seemed like more of a choice to do so – the album was created pre-quar, between 2018 and 2019. Its opening song, “Osouji”, walks the listener through a deep-clean of the home not too unlike a mindfulness meditation exercise you may have turned to when you realized you were going to be inside for several months: “wiping baseboards / the radio on / and seeing things / that have been here / and considering them.”

Philadelphia’s carefully placed instrumentals soothe, achieving the group’s aspirations of paying homage to Japanese New Age music. The trio’s soft sounds meld perfectly with Krgovich’s vocal register and gentle lyric delivery, devolving into meandering loops on “I Don’t See the Moon” and “Friday Afternoon” that are reminiscent of Shababson’s solo saxophone work. A personal favourite from the collection, “Tuesday Afternoon,” comically yet earnestly documents a walk down the street set to Boards of Canada-esque synth leads. Philadelphia awards the concentrated listener, who may otherwise miss Krgovich’s subtle description of a man “Sippin’ on / Gatorade / exhaling.” 

It is these observations – the ones nobody usually writes home about – that make the album so special. While we’re all paying attention now, Shababson, Krgovich and Harris knew that we should have been all along. 

– Katerina Stamadianos