Jars of Clay have found the sound that defines them…. they have found their place on the musical landscape.
From their debut self titled album in 1995 where they were “the Christian Toad the Wet Sprocket” to “If I left the Zoo” where they almost had a ‘Counting Crows’ feel to them, there have been touches of 80’s instrumentation added to the mix over the years too, but now…. here is a band comfortable in who they are…. a band with it’s own sound that is a real accumulation of their musical journey.
‘Inland’ is the first album since Jars of Clays 2010 collaborative effort ‘The Shelter’ – so which Jars of Clay will turn up?
From the very first tracks you hear that this is going to be a very organic album…. it has a very Indie heart to this album and it’s no surprise as you see that Tucker Martine who has worked with the likes of The Decemberists, R.E.M. , Beth Orton and Sufjan Stevens all of which are Indie alternative folk artists.
Tucker is definitely at the helm and you can hear his influence on the album with tracks like ‘Fall Asleep’ bringing back memories of R.E.M.’s ‘Night swimming’.
One of the greatest things about Jars of Clay is they aren’t worried about ‘the usual’ radio sound…. and that has to be rewarded. The music is something that is onomatopoeic in it’s approach you hear the lyrics and the music is almost mimicking the feel, the sound, the tension of the song and you hear the alarms ring as they sing about getting your attention.
This isn’t a comfortable album to listen to… it’s alternative in it’s approach, it doesn’t have nice edges to it and will push you… if not lyrically…. maybe musically. I like that… music with dimension to it…. (who would have guessed that it could happen in this day and age) . The band even touches on previously untouched ground like ‘Loneliness and Alcohol’. While I’m sure other Christian artists may have touched in the subject Jars of Clay have given it the real focus it needs:
“Tell me of the world you’re leaving
While you’re swinging like a wrecking ball
Bury all your love in secrets
And loneliness in alcohol”
I love how the album signs off…. with the song ‘Inland’– no man is an Island and it’s a multi-dimensional approach to it… community and the God that never leaves you.
“Just keep heading inland and come on home to me
Yeah come on home to me”
This is the most complete album that Jars of Clay have released (maybe ever) and certainly deserves a listen…. even if it’s only for tracks like ‘After the Fight’ and ‘Fall asleep’ however it’s an album that has the best of what the band has done previously (in sound and lyric) but has enough foresight and edge to give this album longevity that would leave other Christian albums that will be coming out this year lost in this years offerings as the compete for the latest sound.
Inland will stand alone as a pioneer album in a world of albums that are happy to be in the safe flow of the mainstream…. and this is the Irony of Jars of Clay.