“I turned 40 when I was writing this record,” Jennifer Castle tells me soon after we meet in a Toronto diner about as long, wide, and old as a school bus. “That makes you take stock of stuff.” Castle does not laugh wearily or look at me with a grim plea for sympathy, as some would. Her tone is bird’s eye observational yet appreciative, with a quiet resilience — it’s audible even above the griddle of sizzling bacon two foot away from the counter where we drink our coffees.
Like her speaking voice, Castle’s singing carries the joy of life. It’s what helps keep the artist perched on the vanguard of celestial country and fantastical folk, a title she affirms once again with her fifth album Angels of Death. The project is an exploration of mortality, a subject demanding dimension, and Castle delivers as only she can. On lead single “Crying Shame,” she sings: “It’s such a shame that I thought this river knew my name,” a salutary tribute to the ever-changing cosmic forces that define our lives without knowing one jot about us. The album is never entirely moribund or doleful, even in the face of utter meaninglessness: “Grim Reaper,” neat with fingerpicked notes like falling tears, is a loving testament to the act of writing as a salve against death.