Bittersweet in tone yet ultimately triumphant, Inland exceeds Jars of Clay’s typically high standards for album-making. The veteran Christian pop/rock quartet benefits from production input by Tucker Martine, who underscores the band’s sonic connection with the likes of R.E.M., My Morning Jacket, and The Decemberists (all previous Martine clients). JoC rises to the occasion with outstanding songs dealing with everyday angst, thwarted desire, and spiritual longing in eloquent, visceral terms. Chiming guitar lines and a punchy rhythm section drive home the ache and longing within “After the Fight,” “Age of Immature Mistakes,” and “Skin & Bones.” Tracks like “Loneliness & Alcohol” and “Left Undone” examine human weakness with an unsparing honesty tempered by tenderness. Singer Dan Haseltine’s delicate yet trenchant vocals bring out the brooding colors within “Pennsylvania,” “Fall Asleep,” and similarly introspective tracks. Hope breaks through amid the pervasive darkness, especially in the prayerful “Reckless Forgiver” and the idealistic title tune.

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