I'll Never Walk Alone
Moonbeam or Ray
Editors’ Notes While Ontario singer-songwriter Jennifer Castle has gradually expanded her cult fanbase as she’s expanded her sound (thanks to the crack country-rockin’ backing band that backed her on the 2018 album Angels of Death), Monarch Season marks a return to the solitary troubadour mode of her late-2000s forays as Castlemusic. But where even those spartan early efforts still accommodated guest players, Monarch Season is a solo effort through and through, recorded at Castle’s home in the fall of 2019 with just her voice, piano, acoustic guitar, and harmonica. Inspired by the splendor of the moon and the annual mating habits of butterflies, Monarch Season is a testament to Castle’s ability to conjure the vast, cinematic expanse of the great outdoors through the most minimal means: On reverb-heavy finger-picking reveries like “NYC” and “Veins,” her crystalline voice feels both as eternal as a golden-oldies radio hitmaker and as ephemeral as a benevolent ghost. However, Castle looks to nature not simply to marvel at the view, but to pry open a window into the human condition. With the poignant title track—a dazed piano ballad straight out of Neil Young’s mid-’70s playbook—Castle may speak in the language of butterfly-catching (“Holding out my limb/Trying to bring one in”), but she could very well be singing about those hopes and dreams that always seem to be just out of reach.