Jars of Clay - The Long Fall Back to Earth

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Artist: Jars of Clay
Album: The Long Fall Back to Earth
Label: Gray Matters / Essential Records
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. The Long Fall
  2. Weapons
  3. Two Hands
  4. Heaven
  5. Closer
  6. Safe to Land
  7. Headphones
  8. Don’t Stop
  9. Boys (Lesson One)
  10. Hero
  11. Scenic Route
  12. There Might Be a Light
  13. Forgive Me
  14. Heart

One thing I have always loved about Jars of Clay is their willingness to push their sound and constantly evolve it from album to album. It’s probably because of that willingness to think outside the box that I write this review for their latest album, The Long Fall Back to Earth. In order for a band to stand the test of time it needs to adapt to the constantly changing music scene and stay relevant.

With that being said, the more things change the more they stay the same. By that I mean Dan’s trademark vocals are as strong as ever here, a remarkable thing considering vocalists tend to trail off as they get older. His voice is even transformed as in the heavily synth-laden ‘Heaven’ that immediately makes me think of the 80’s era of music (no, not hair metal). He also pushes himself to a new level on one of my favorite tracks, ‘Hero’, as he belts out the chorus with impressive range.

The lyrics are always a bright spot on any Jars album and you almost come to expect it. Whether it’s the regretful tone of ‘Safe to Land’, the gentle instruction of a father to his sons (or God to us) in ‘Boys (Lesson One)’, or a blunt reminder of how easy we distract ourselves from the pain of the world when we could be helping others by putting on some ‘Headphones’, there’s a lot to get from this album. All of those tracks are also strong because of the brooding music that almost demands you to think about what is being said. I think they are the best band at crafting slow songs that hit home. On every album they have a few that are so powerful you may just be left speechless and the beauty of it all is none of them sound the same. Some bands get stuck on a hit single and try to recreate it over and over again but not these guys.

So what’s changed? Well, synths are back in style and so are all those electronic beeps and boops. It’s unlike anything they’ve ever done before unless you count the Closer EP released last year. That has a few tracks that are on this album and would give you a good idea as to where they are headed. The closing track, ‘Heart’, may initially seem like it doesn’t stack up to the other great Jars album closers, but it’s still a highlight after you get used to it.

Overall: I’d put this album about middle of the pack in their discography. It’s not quite on the level of their self-titled or The Eleventh Hour for me but it’s also a lot better than If I Left the Zoo or Good Monsters. The Long Fall Back to Earth would be a classic if they took out a few tracks like ‘There Might Be a Light’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ though. Both songs entirely break up the flow with their lackluster lyrics and typical song structure. Even with those blemishes this is an album worth purchasing for any Jars of Clay fan or anyone who enjoys lyrics with some depth that deal with real life issues.

Gems of this album are: ‘Safe to Land’, ‘Hero’, ‘Boys (Lesson One)’, ‘Heaven’, ‘Scenic Route’

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