Hospital Hymns by Gavin Castleton is an interesting piece. It was inspired by Castleton’s six-month internship in a Rhode Island hospital stockroom. Hospital Hymns is unique because Castleton chooses not to tell the story from his own perspective, but rather a ficitional character. As the press release states: This is a five song narrative record chronicaling one day of deliveries for an eccentric 76 year old stockroom worker in a RI Hospital. Each track is a “modern hymn” of sorts, fashioned from various religious hymn structures/chord progressions, but presented with a lush facejob of modern instrumentation.
Musically, Castleton really mixes things up beautifully on Hospital Hymns. Every hymn has its own unique feel. Hospital Hymns goes from lush indie pop in the vein of Sufjan Stevens to the R&B laced “Hymn 2: Women’s Care in Eflat Major.” Castleton’s songs breathe with an overwhelming sense of spirituality that emanates from his fictional narrator. “Hymn 3: Dialysis in G Minor” touches on the orchestral pop of crooner Rufus Wainwright. Much like Wainwright, Castleton’s airy vocals add an almost heavenly touch to these instrumentally diverse arrangements. “Hymn 5: E.R. In E Flat Major” ends Hospital Hymns on an epic note as Castleton’s vocals battle guitar feedback during the song’s slow fade out.
One thing I admire and keep coming back to on Hospital Hymns is that these songs seem to serve a real purpose. There is meaning behind this work. It is up to the listener to decipher that meaning though. While Hospital Hymns is not usually something I would reach for, I find myself becoming more and more impressed with it. Gavin Castleton is a talented and creative artist that is nearly impossible to classify. He simply refuses to limit the scope or direction of his songs. Either way you look at it, that will always be a wonderful thing.
RIYL: Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens, Eliott Smith
You can stream the entire release here.