By: Amanda McMillan
It’s been nearly five years to the day since we’ve had a studio release from Canadian alt. rock icon Dallas Green, who graced us last year with a beautifully curated live album Guide Me Back Home. That feels like a long time, considering all of his other releases were approximately two years apart. The new album is slick, and features some more raw, hidden gems amongst the gloss.
“Living in Lightening” opens the album with a strong back beat, and airy guitar before we’re met with the familiar croon of Dallas Green’s high register vocals. The major to minor transition between verse and chorus is classic City and Colour, carried by the kind of melody you find yourself humming along to from the first time you hear it.
“Astronaut” has more of a country twang to it, the overall vibe of his previous release If I Go Before You. It leaves you wanting to sway gently, with a very singable chorus that will likely be a favourite at live shows.
“Imagination”, and “Difficult Love” are very radio friendly songs that will likely find their way to local stations soon enough. While one is a little more distorted and the other more mellow, they have that “is this City and Colour”? vibe to them that make them hard to distinguish from their other records. Is that a good or a bad thing? It’s tough to distinguish.
“Me and the Moonlight” has dreamy opening, with high reverb vocals that come in around the 0:45 second mark with “Not everything you said should be heard/ Some things should stay buried in the dirt.When there is no target for your anger, could it be that you’re the one who’s hurt? So many fucking pointless conversations about who’s right or wrong, you or me,” which is a clear commentary on what’s going on right now in the world around us. There’s a sense of exhaustion and yearning to escape, to sink into the openness and loneliness of “the pale moonlight.”
There’s an easy transition into “Mountain of Madness” which is a chalk full of moody, soulful, instrumentals, drizzled with Dallas’ smooth, caramel vocals. The falsetto in the chorus is kind of achy, and pleading, in a way that’s familiar to the band’s musical style.
“Song of Unrest” carries contrast between the piano and the fuzzy drum fills has the potential to be off-putting, but ends up sounding like a Phil Collins song in all the right ways. Paired with lyrics and vocals that evoke longing, and regret, this track has a ton of potential to be a deep cut favourite for City and Colour fans.
The final track “Lay Me Down” can only really be summarized as melancholy anthem of despair. The piano melody seems to tell its own story, while the strings and twangy guitar fills are the sonic equivalent to the feeling of crawling into bed to cry. It’s an interesting way to end the album, but seems fitting considering the album title.
The tracks have a full and clean production feel to them, a mature evolution from his earlier days. Although his grassroots, small-town cross-Canada live album gave us a taste of how nuanced and talented Dallas Green is at his core, A Pill For Loneliness sounds like the kind of album he’s probably quite satisfied with. The overall sonic appeal suits his age, which is a compliment. It’s very easy for a nearly-forty year old artist who came up in the era of Emo/Screamo to sound boring, outdated, and unable to keep up not only with the changing sound of music but staying true to their own sound. But Dallas’ gift is his ability to sound good pretty much all of the time. He’s a true songwriter, and plays to his own strengths more often than not. The result of which another well-produced album, with tight and well-crafted lyrics, centred on his distinctly high-register voice.
A Pill For Loneliness is exactly what you would expect from Dallas Green, which can be arguably both a good and bad thing. For fans, there’s very little to be disappointed with. But for critics, there’s not a whole lot to dig into that hasn’t already existed before in City & Colour’s discography. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being predictable, it’s just a lot less fun. Then again, in a world that seems to be changing rapidly at every moment, on good days rapidly evolving and on bad ones crashing down around us, there is something to be said about being able to rely on old favourites sounding exactly like you expect them to. So in that sense, this album is a near perfect City and Colour release, and that’s more than we can ask for from an artist who hasn’t been in the studio since Obama was President.