There’s a common thinking that when an artist finds happiness, they cease to create good, meaningful work. It’s a silly misconception to believe that art can only come from pain, and if you needed proof of that, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster’s (JPKS) new record, Take Heart, Take Care, is the place to start. Known for crafting songs that have the ability to absolutely gut you, JPKS is no stranger to darkness. From the pounding guitar-driven songs of his band Water Liars to Marie/Lepanto, his shadowy collaboration with Will Johnson, his songwriting and vocal performance have often conveyed deep longing and sadness, about the world around him and the demons of his characters and himself. On Take Heart, Take Care, though, he has cracked the blinds.
From the opening track, “Plenty Wonder,” we’re hit with guitars so sun-drenched, the change in JPKS is immediately apparent. A song about finding a balance in love, letting go of the extremes of a toxic, destructive relationship and opening yourself up to a new, softer experience, “Plenty Wonder” feels like the thumping heartbeat of Take Heart, Take Care. Like much of the record, it is filled with hope. It eloquently presents an open mind and, of course, an open heart. We feel this on the gentle, dreamy instrumental lullaby “Morning Waltz,” and on “Friend of Mine,” a sepia-tinged, sweet ode to being young and carefree, curious and wide-eyed. The clanging acoustic guitar melody makes you want to run barefoot through some grass, hand-in-hand with your best friend.
The poeticism of a JPKS song can leave you dumbfounded, listening back more closely to make out all the intricacies in his language. The way he weaves words together is awe-inspiring, especially on the album’s title track. “Take Heart, Take Care” offers the kind of wisdom that can only come from someone who has been world-weary and beaten down, but who has managed to find some light anyway. “Time, time is the mender, whose strange mechanics, yet untold, bid us rise entwined together,” he sings, reminding us that when we open ourselves up to the love of others, we can face anything. It is JPKS, sending us back out into the world, better than we were when he found us.