Castle’s successor to that record, Pink City, is an absolutely stunner. Gentle rolling guitar, Owen Pallett’s lush string arrangements and Castle’s voice – an indefinable thing that is at once fragile, delicate and rugged – are just some of the elements that made that collection of pastoral folk songs one of our favorite records of 2014. As an album, it deftly framed Castle as a twenty-first century aesthete, navigating the ghosts and discarded palm fronds of 1970s Laurel Canyon.
Taking nothing away from that record, Castlemusic is just as sturdy and surely suggests the forthcoming majesty of its follow-up. But there’s a thicker air of dust on this lp accompanying Castle amongst her explorations of existential heartbreak. The opening “Summer” finds Castle in a thick, murky atmosphere, the humidity rising and reverberating off the guitar with Castle’s cooing getting lost in the echo. The stunning and unparalleled “Powers” follows the blossom and subsequent decay of nature. Her weary voice travels beside deep rumbling guitar, airy flute and distant echoes of drum.
Showcasing her lunar falsetto, tracks “Neverride” and “The Way of the Crow” gleam beside the cosmic country arrangements of acoustic guitar, spirited piano and whirling pedal steel. There’s a natural and rugged individualism in Castle’s lyricism. “Even though they took my home,” she sings, “I gotta take it back with a golden throat.” She personifies the sun, the clouds and the hills, creating her own dreamy western-esque world; one that is inviting despite the conflicts therein. Castle’s connection to nature remains prevalent throughout, and whether literal or metaphorical her visions are stirring and imaginative. “So when the mountain comes avalanching / and the ocean crashes / and the great tree branches with his name on it / there’ll be a song that he’ll be singing” — lyrics Castle sings with pure fervor, blazing right along with the scorching feedback of her guitar.
The record closes with the instrumental guitar ramble “The Friend,” a delicate and plaintive note whose unexpected brevity feels the perfect ending to this record – a record teeming with minor marvels, charms and roughhewn beauty. words / c depasquale