By: Amanda McMillan
The Districts have maintained a kind of under the radar appeal despite having made four albums in five years. Their breakout debut A Flourish and a Spoil remains one of my personal favourites, and a baseline for the band’s overall sound. One part distortion, one part reverb, and just the right amount of angst manages to keep the band hovering above any one genre.
With each album, there is a clear tweaking and adjusting to their sound and maturing, growing slowly rather than all at once. By the time we get to their newest release, You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere, there is an undeniable polish that’s been added, not just in the overall production but piece by piece. The instrumentation is slick, vocals have been dialed back ever so slightly to feel less punk-inspired and more the early aughts. It’s a refreshing direction from the band that settles in quite nicely for a new decade of alt-rock.
The album opens with “My Only Ghost,” which is aptly haunting. The echoed and faded vocals add a familiar melancholy that we’re used to from the bad, but its dialed down the angst in favour of something a little deeper.
The first single off the album, “Hey Jo” is equal parts plucky and melodic, with catchy little guitar riffs and fuzzy vocals and a thumping bass line. There is an energetic burst around the 1:30 mark that brings the song to a new level, keeping it from getting too repetitive.
“Cheap Regrets” has what might be one of my favourite bass lines from them yet, smooth and vibey, complemented by synth and guitar that sound like they’re being played underwater. Then we have “Velour and Velcro” which is the closest to New Wave I’ve ever heard from the band. The use of synth mixed with twangy guitar and echo-y vocals leaves it feeling like the lovechild of an Interpol song and a song by The Cure.
As we get the end of the album, the track “Dancer” really surprised me. Is that a sax I hear? It’s not something I would have expected to hear on this album, but it feels authentic to the band, especially when followed up by “Sidecar,” which feels like the most “Districts” song on the whole album. Closing out the album is “4th of July,” which is a nod to change and transcendence. It’s mellow, and soothing, a fitting end to an otherwise quite energetic and exploratory album.
The band’s lead singer Rob Grote has noted that in creating this record, the group experienced a total transformation: “We had to reset each other as individuals today rather than who we were in the friendships we started when we were sixteen. It was definitely hard.” That change and reframing of themselves as individual members as well as a band is evident song by song.
There’s a newness to this album that feels unique in their discography to date. It’s older, more mature, the output of, quite simply, having grown up. None of us are who we were at sixteen, and letting go of that idea of yourself, especially when surrounded by people who knew you then, is a process in and of itself. Being able to change and evolve together is a beautiful thing, and as an album, You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere is a nice reflection of that truth.