Sound — 7
Alternative rock group Jars of Clay are jamming their way back into the music world with their first new studio album in two years. The band first caught the attention of pop rock oriented mainstream listeners back in 1995 with the release of their self-titled debut album. It was with this album that Jars of Clay would be quickly introduced to a worldwide audience; the band's distinctive signature style comprised of acoustic guitar playing, vocal melodies and traditional Christian lyrical themes, backed by a noteworthy production job by King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, allowed such songs as "Flood" and "Love Song For a Savior" to climb the radio charts. Since the release of their debut, Jars Of Clay have continued to regularly release new music, and gradually adopting new elements into their style. The band's need to experiment with different genres is one of the main features that has continue to capture the attention and ears of their fan base. No matter which direction Jars Of Clay would eventually decide to head in, they still managed to do something a majority of other groups fail to do: provide some sort of anchor to their previous albums and still sound like themselves. When it comes to their new studio album, "Inland," it is no different. Jars Of Clay deliver a collection of twelve new compositions, each of which are filled with familiar sounding elements yet also provide a freshness to the band's original style. Songs such as the title track begin with high-in-the-mix drum kicks and a simple single vocal melody, before slowly welcoming in the addition of guitar playing, harmonies and synthesizer playing. However in such tracks as "After the Fight," the members of Jars of Clay waste no time with gradual introductions and immediately kick off into an almost U2-sounding song comprised of an acoustic guitar backbone and complimentary keyboard work. For the most part it's another enjoyable performance from Jars of Clay. Although their current sound may not be a carbon copy of what they originally demonstrated 18 years ago, established fans of the rock group are already well aware of the band's need to experiment and evolve musically, and so this should be an anticipated factor.
Lyrics — 8
The majority of the colorful vocal melodies which make up such a significant portion of Jars of Clay's music can be directly attributed to lead vocalist Dan Haseltine. As I noted earlier, when a band decides to experiment with different genres and move on to a new musical horizon with each studio album, you need to have at least one stabilizing factor that provides some familiarity. In the case of Jars of Clay, Dan's lyrical delivery and range is this anchor. The bright melodies are one of the more standout factors that is showcased throughout "Inland," not to mention one of the most enjoyable to listen to. In fact, I now look forward to hearing Dan's melodies on the album's title track each time I hit the replay button.
Overall Impression — 7
Jars of Clay make a powerful return with their eleventh studio album, "Inland." This is a studio album that shows the band continuing to explore different musical genres and implementing new elements into their traditional style, while still providing some familiarity to their earlier releases. For any established fan of the group's previous releases, this is an album that comes highly recommended. Any follower of the Christian rock music genre should have no difficulty in passionately enjoying this album for themselves as well. While it may take a few replays, "Inland" proves to be one of those albums that only gets better with each additional listen.