Cardinal Giant is a welcome return for one of St. John’s greatest exports of the past few years.

Jon Hynes was the recipient of The Overcast’s own Borealis Music Prize for his 2014 release Watchful Creatures, and his latest offering makes him an immediate contender for another nod at a big prize. Cardinal Giant is textured, poppy, and polished, and should be best explored through multiple listens – one hallmark of great art.

Right away, it’ll catch your ear. But there’s a lot of subtle shifts and motifs that keep you entranced and coming back to traverse every little path.

There’s an eclectic mix of poppy anthems, grit, groove, and melancholic moments. It makes no sacrifices in search of its sound. The only real consistency lies in Hynes’ coloured voice, which takes few liberties in range, but sits perfectly anyway.

Hynes is not afraid to break up strong and recognizable rock ideals with interesting additions. There’s a surplus of fuzz-laden guitars on the record that add a chaotic dimension to the lyrical hooks that overlay. There are processed drums that segue between sections, and fluid background textures that warm the experience without ever dominating. Both “Waltz I” and “Waltz II” (which ends the album) are the perfect examples of high-quality songwriting being shaped in the studio by auxiliary choices.

It’s hard to pinpoint a comparison for Cardinal Giant. There are traces of the Beatles, of 80s post punk, of Pink Floyd, and even the cerebral, yet accessible rhythms of Hey! Rosetta. It grinds, it dances, it sings at you, with you, and for you. It regales you with a spoken word story in “Windower/Murderer.”

It’s a top-notch effort from a top-notch artist; a man who has carved out a sterling slate of solo offerings even beyond his iconic start with St. John’s rockers Trailer Camp (which I still go back to, years later). This is required listening for this month.