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Jars of Clay - The Long Fall Back to Earth Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.5
Musicianship 8
Lyrics 8.5
Production 9
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 7
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 82%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.5
Musicianship 9.25
Lyrics 9
Production 9.25
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 8.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.25
Average: 90%

Jars of Clay - The Long Fall Back to Earth

Reviewed by: thepianominstre (05/13/09)
Jars of Clay - The Long Fall Back to Earth
Record Label: Gray Matters
Release Date: April 21, 2009

Most of the respectable Christian bands from my childhood have either officially called it quits (Audio Adrenaline), effectively called it quits (dc Talk), or completely changed their lineup and ceased to be remotely interesting (Newsboys), but Jars of Clay are still going strong. 2006's Good Monsters was surprisingly solid and fresh, and after that they established their own label out of their alleged desire "to control their music output." Well, it seems to have been worth it.

The Long Fall Back To Earth shows Jars of Clay continuing to distance themselves from the more boring aspects of the Christian radio industry in favor of a more layered mainstream sound. The intro track is inevitably reminiscent of Coldplay's Viva La Vida kick-off, but I'm a sucker for that well-polished mellow rock groove buildup thing. "Weapons" is a beautiful opener, exhibiting an anthemic clean energy in the vein of Snow Patrol with its multi-faceted call to peace: Lay your weapons down / There are no enemies in front of you!

The album continues to build around the framework of layered, polished production and catchy melodies, but it explores ample territory throughout. "Heaven" and "Don't Stop" channel the 80's with synthesizers, and "Closer" feels more like modern indie/electronica, complete with horns and bells. "Hero" has a rhythm-driven Muse-like intensity, and is one of many songs sprinkled with a brightly ringing keyboard melody (think "Starlight").

But it's not just the music that repaints a well-worn landscape with an interesting coat. Dan Haseltine's songwriting is as strong as ever, and the lyrics weave their way through life and love with smart perspectives. "Headphones" is a slower, softer song about the desire to shut out a tiring world. "Scenic Route" argues that love is more about the journey than the destination. "Boys (Lesson One)" is a father's advice to a son: Not to undermine the consequence / But you are not what you do / If you weather love and lose your innocence / Just remember lesson one - don't hide.

With fifty-nine minutes of thirteen tracks plus an intro, they could have skipped a couple weaker songs and still had a long album by today's standards. Towards the end you start to feel like you've heard this verse-prechorus-chorus buildup before. But "Heart" is a strong - albeit slightly offbeat - closer, and a wonderful love song.

This is an album that grows on you with each listen, as you sink past the catchy surface and begin to appreciate the plethora of curves and layers (the variety of background vocals alone is quite delightful). Nestled somewhere comfortably between rock and pop - between commercial and indie - this album is exactly what this kind of music is supposed to be like: smart, melodic, catchy, and just downright pleasant, and I'm unashamed to name it my favorite release from the first months of 2009.

Recommended If You Likenew Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Muse, Death Cab, the 80's, that well-polished mellow rock groove buildup thing
 
Displaying posts 1 - 8 of 8.
07:12 PM on 05/23/09
#2
thepianominstre
@joshuahedlund
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It goes without saying that mewithoutYou has since replaced this as my favorite-so-far release of '09. But for the genre that it's in I say this is pretty good stuff and worth checking out.
07:39 AM on 05/25/09
#3
agloriousruin
salt & light in a world of darkness
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These guys are still my all time favorite band and they continue not to disappoint. Essentially everything they've put out throughout their career is solid and worthy of listening, both by Christians and non-Christians alike. They are strong songwriters and musicians and shouldn't be ignored simply because of their faith. Great review!
09:02 AM on 05/25/09
#4
awakeohsleeper
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It goes without saying that mewithoutYou has since replaced this as my favorite-so-far release of '09. But for the genre that it's in I say this is pretty good stuff and worth checking out.
You are a good reviewer. My mewithoutYou record hasn't arrived yet. And I've never really listened to Jars of Clay - but nice to a review by this band on here.
02:27 PM on 05/27/09
#5
loj
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i was literally just thinking to myself, "gee, maybe i should do a Jars review for AP.net". well done, sir, you pretty much nailed it on the head. christian rock sites seem to be overrating this album a fair bit, probably because it actually could pass for an actual indie rock album, something many christian acts fail to do today.

but, no mention of 'two hands'?
09:55 PM on 05/29/09
#6
thepianominstre
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Thanks, all.

i was literally just thinking to myself, "gee, maybe i should do a Jars review for AP.net". well done, sir, you pretty much nailed it on the head. christian rock sites seem to be overrating this album a fair bit, probably because it actually could pass for an actual indie rock album, something many christian acts fail to do today.

but, no mention of 'two hands'?

Heh, I had a hard time not singling out almost every song from this album. I'll have to see if it keeps growing on me or if the initial shine wears off but it could definitely be a strong contender for my top 5 this year.

Even before I knew this album was coming out I rediscovered If I Left The Zoo earlier this year. They've had ups and downs and varied a bit, but solid stuff throughout their career, for sure. I even love that they put out a quality hymns album when the worship craze got going.
08:01 AM on 06/02/09
#7
loj
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Thanks, all.



Heh, I had a hard time not singling out almost every song from this album. I'll have to see if it keeps growing on me or if the initial shine wears off but it could definitely be a strong contender for my top 5 this year.

Even before I knew this album was coming out I rediscovered If I Left The Zoo earlier this year. They've had ups and downs and varied a bit, but solid stuff throughout their career, for sure. I even love that they put out a quality hymns album when the worship craze got going.
ya, the Hymns release was a curveball no one really anticipated. the best and worst thing these guys did was write Worlds Apart so early in their career...i think it's literally the best song i've ever heard.
02:12 PM on 02/20/10
#8
Statarius
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My perspective on the quality/value/usefulness of 'pop' music was changed not too long ago, by the idea that pop represents a sound that many people can gather around. While JoC seems to be leaning more and more on the 'hyper-refined' sound that audiophiles turn their noses up at, they remain on a short list of my all-time favorites. This is because they retain their core appeal (Charlie's compositions, Dan's vocal expressiveness, among other aspects) while pushing themselves stylistically to try new things. The Long Fall is by far their most successful attempt at this. They get to express themselves (a novel idea these days), mix and blend various styles (including the wicked awesome 80's, as mentioned), and tie it all into a sound that is, yes, pop - but the good kind of pop.
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