Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Album Review: City And Colour - The Hurry And The Harm

Album Rating: B+
Sometimes when I listen to music, I like to ponder my favourite rock vocalists. Not only that, but I like to imagine the chosen ones having a sing off, or more accurately, a battle: crooning, shouting and screaming near indecipherable lyrics into each other’s faces until they’re slowly whittled down until only the finest survive. This probably isn’t normal, and I doubt it’s healthy either, nevertheless, the plethora of above average vocalists are chipped away to reveal an inevitable face-off between two men. Dallas Green, formerly of Alexisonfire fame, unleashes ethereal lullabies whilst Fair to Midland’s Darroh Sudderth bounces around melting faces and pretending to be a Viking - and it’s a hard fought outcome which is only decided by my mood.

What this slightly disturbing insight into my mind is indirectly indicating is that Dallas Green is a master of pulling the heartstrings, and when they’re in the mood to be plucked and gently manipulated – few do it better than City and Colour. He’s demonstrated this ability many times already throughout his discography: the tear-inducing “Comin’ Home” from debut album Sometimes painted a picture of inner struggle on long dusty roads in foreign lands, whilst the efficacious “O’ Sister” from 2011’s Little Hell masterfully spun a tale of mental illness and the anguish that comes with it. How Green can be so evocative, raw and powerful with only the most basic of accompaniments is testament to his talent, and it’s a trend which continues on The Hurry and the Harm. No gimmicks, no props, just Green.

It comes as no surprise to see Green play to his considerable strengths, and The Hurry and the Harm is a compendium of heartfelt hook-laden ballads which flourish with repeated listening. Lead single “Of Space and Time” is the finest of the restrained cuts, featuring a soaring chorus underpinned by soft strings in what feels like a modern day “Comin’ Home” but with 10 times more self belief. The tone with which Green sings about going home has changed drastically since his debut: desperate pleading has given way to soulful pondering with the benefit of time and discontent has been replaced by fulfilment, and it’s a refreshing frame of mind which, consciously or not, pervades the album.

Because of the stripped down sound which is employed throughout, considerable emphasis is shifted toward the album’s lyrics and themes. On both past and present efforts, they have acted as the plectrum with which your emotions have been played, but occasionally on The Hurry and the Harm they fall uncharacteristically flat. Viewed against the emotional depths reached on his previous work, the delivery of “Life is hard, harder than stone” on “Harder than Stone” is asinine and uninspired, and it’s difficult not to raise a surprised eyebrow at the choice of rhetoric. In contrast, when Green begs “please don’t pass me by” on “The Lonely Life” it strikes a genuine chord and feels instantly relatable, and it’s expertly reinforced by an understated piano riff which dances off his words playfully at the song’s chorus. Thankfully, the majority of the album enjoys lyrics from the latter camp rather than the former, and the heartfelt heavily outweighs the unsatisfying.

The Hurry and the Harm is everything we've come to expect from City and Colour, and there are sparse ballads in “Take Care” and “Death’s Song” alongside upbeat sing-a-longs in “The Lonely Life” and “Thirst” – delivering sunny hits and introspective verses in tandem, suitable for whichever mood you find yourself in this summer.

Track List:
  1. The Hurry and the Harm
  2. Harder Than Stone
  3. Of Space and Time
  4. The Lonely Life
  5. Paradise
  6. Commentators
  7. Thirst
  8. Two Coins
  9. Take Care
  10. Ladies and Gentlemen
  11. The Golden State
  12. Death's Song

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