Jars of Clay gets a bad rap. I feel like people are still stuck thinking of the band that released Flood eighteen years ago. We forget the fact that the band followed that up with a complex and masterful album (Much Afraid) and has gone through various phases where the band has experimented with 80’s new wave rock (The Long Fall Back to Earth) to straight up rock and roll (Good Monster), to beautiful stripped down hymns (Redemption Songs), and just about everything in between. Jars of Clay have come a long way in their twenty years together. And yet whenever someone mentions Jars of CLay, most people go back to the band’s hit single from two decades ago.
Inland is the band’s eleventh studio record. Inland is honest and reflective. It’s sparse and rich in sound, all at the same time. It’s an exploration of human emotion and questioning. It’s a beautiful record. It’s at times the poppiest Jars of Clay has ever been. And it’s for sure the most introspective the band has been.
Inland is solid top to bottom. And while all the songs are great, the standouts grab your soul. Love In the Hard Times is a heartbreaking, soul crushing lament of a ballad. Whether written about a relationship or God, the song hits hard. Wanting to know you’re not going through life alone and having love no matter how bad things get. The upbeat pop rock sound on Loneliness and Alcohol has enough swagger and groove, without crossing into “mainstream” territory to please even the hardest of indie critic. The catchiness of the hook is instantaneous and you’ll find yourself singing the song days later without realizing it. The heartache in I Don’t Want You To Forget is not overshadowed but enhanced by the sweeping string section and the biting guitar lead. The title track is a beautiful song about the need for community.
Of course those are only my favorites on the record. After the Fight is a great understated rock song. Think Good Monsters on ritalin. Age of Immature Mistakes hints at Haseltine’s pop side project, The Hawk in Paris.
Inland might prove to be my favorite Jars of Clay record to date. It might be their best work to date. It is the artistic change and progression the band has been seeking. It’s a masterpiece.