The 12-track collection is packed with quiet folk ballads that swell to grandly ornate climaxes. "Sweet Chariot" and "I Am a Collector" recall the grandeur of Illinois-era Sufjan Stevens, while "Ranchero" is spiked with looming creepiness. Other tracks such as "Goodhart's Law" and "Strengthen Me with Raisins" are more low-key in their quiet intimacy.There's also the aforementioned "Go to Me," an ultra ukulele ditty that builds to soaring chorus with a heart-lifting, Shins-style melody.
Klassen has pruned the vine of his composition, and poured rich artistry from new wine skins. The oratorios are weighty in their echoes, yet swoop with the lightness of the air about a reunion of old friends. The apéritif is poured into Canada’s already rich goblet of alternative folk. Let the feast begin.
By the time I reach “The Horses Are Stuck,” I am sold on the record. Each time. But it is this song that suggests something fiercely sacred. I’m not sure if it is the staccato picking on the violin, or the potency of the baritone choir, or perhaps the simple beauty of a melody that gives better hugs than a grandparent. It is as though Klassen has captured the powerful hum only previously heard in Ladysmith Black Mambazo records and in the pages of Mandela’s autobiography. And all is somehow held within a Canadian folk song.
With a title like Repentance, the album suggests a turning, a monumental journey, and a new direction in which to travel. It is easy to get on board. The songs operate between a shy folksy solemnity and haunting bursts of energy, as heard on “Piano Brother,” “Ranchero,” and “Balcony.” Many of the songs feel like they could have fit well on Sufjan Stevens’ 2004 release, Seven Swans. In particular, the Song of Songs inspired, “Strengthen Me With Raisins” tastefully displays Klassen’s similar faith convictions.
All compositional footwork is made possible by the ingenuity of the melodies and an uncompromising vocal prowess. These are Jordan Klassen’s best songs to date. If you haven’t already picked up a copy, pour yourself a glass; the grapes are sweet.