Sound — 8
Jars of Clay's second album is far from a sophomore slump. They utilize a number of various orchestral instruments in it, and create a full sound overall. The album varies in styles, but stays acoustically-driven. The feel of the album is generally very mellow, with several tracks using a bit more power. Strings add depth to several of the songs, most prominently "Frail." Acoustic guitars and synthesizers are a staple for the band, and this album sticks with that trend. Electric solos are unfortunately rare, with the most notable ones coming on "Crazy Times," "Portrait of an Apology," and to some extent on "Truce." The title track of the album features some use of an accordion. Daniel Haseltine's vocals remain virtually unchanged from the previous album. All in all, the album has a very rich and full sound, even if it does seem subdued at points. The one thing lacking in the album is electric guitars, which is somewhat of a letdown for a band labelled as rock. Still, the album does deliver the goods where it counts.
Lyrics — 9
This album shows the band moving away from their Contemporary Christian roots, and branching out into more mainstream subjects. However, far from being boring or cooky cutter, their lyrics are interesting and complex. Figuratively language is used heavily, and many of the songs are left fairly open in meaning. The album certainly lends itself to personal interpretation for each listener. However, at times, the lyrics can seem cryptic or stream-of-conscious. Faith and religion are still topics discussed on the album, but in a subtler way compared to their debut album. The music and the lyrics seem to fit nicely together on most of the tracks, though "Truce" and "Fade to Grey" are a bit rough in this area. The odd song out on the album is probably "Five Candles" which feels like it is on the wrong album. It is almost too "bright" for the album, so to speak. Still, the lyrics for the album seem to be well thought-out, and certainly not your average rock lyrics for the time.
Overall Impression — 8
This is certainly one of Jars' better records, and still could stand up today as a decent alt rock album. For its time (1997), it is reminiscent of bands such as Soul Asylum or R.E.M. The album is perhaps most memorable for "Crazy Times" or "Frail," both of which are some of the bands best work. "Portrait of an Apology" should certainly get an honorable mention as well. The album is excellent for casual or quiet listening, and is not offensive as ambient music either. The one complaint I have (as I mentioned before) is the depressing lack of electrics on this album. However, Jars of Clay is not known for having "heavy" rock anthems. In closing, this is certainly a keeper, and a must-have for any Jars of Clay fan. Even to the casual mainstream listener, the album should be fairly enjoyable. Minimal overtly Christian lyrics, but still respectful topics and style make this album enjoyable for various audiences.