Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Country, Folk & Blues Albums

5. Jennifer Castle
Pink City
(Idée Fixe)

The road of the transient folksinger, while thematically rich, is well trod. Most of the time, stories told within this mould are easily recognizable; the music is comfortable, settling over the shoulders like a slightly moth-eaten buffalo coat. On her fourth album, Pink City, Toronto-based musician Jennifer Castle works within the framework of old ideas and familiar characters and renders them ethereal, exultant and faintly shrouded in mystery.

She takes us to San Francisco, to a beach, to a friend's dying garden, to the waves; she mourns lost friends and lovers and exults in solitude but relishes a friend's floor in the company of the happiest dog. Castle's capable hands render these moments both knowable and slightly out of reach as they weave in and out of focus, always brighter than life. Owen Pallett's string arrangements act as a counterweight to Castle's piping vocals — sometimes they swell and sometimes they bark like a second voice, affirming everything she says. Castle's world is a more conscious and deeply felt world than the one we inhabit, one that's gracious, joyful, pained and full of wondering. (Alison Lang)