Tuesday, May 28, 2019

CD Odyssey Disc 1265: City and Colour

While watching Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals I saw Dallas Green (aka City and Colour) in the audience. As the Canadian announcers fawned over what a big hockey fan he was, I noted he was wearing a Toronto Raptors hat. Not hockey related at all! It took considerable internet searching to reveal he is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but it was pretty clear that was his third favourite sport after basketball and baseball.

For all these reasons I wanted to get angry at him, but if your NBA team is in its first final, it is forgivable for you to wear their hat to a hockey game. It is kind of special circumstances. Far worse is wearing a hockey team’s hat that wasn’t playing (aka “third jerseying”), as is falsely wearing a hat of either of the playing teams if it wasn’t your team. Dallas did none of these things.

So on balance, Dallas did the right thing. I mean, apart from being a Leafs fan in the first place. We’ve all got our issues I suppose.

Disc 1265 is… The Hurry and the Harm
Artist: City and Colour

Year of Release: 2013

What’s up with the Cover? It’s a Giant Head cover! This giant head cover is weakened by two things. 1) the rows of dots on the left-hand side in what I assume to be a failed attempt at being artsy and 2) Dallas Green’s blank death mask expression in what I assume to be a failed attempt at looking dangerous.

How I Came to Know It: I think I read a review of this record and decided to give him a chance.

How It Stacks Up:  I have only one City and Colour album and I think it will likely stay that way. An old coworker urged me to listen to the rest of his catalogue which I did, but nothing stood out like “The Hurry and the Harm”.

Ratings: 4 stars

“The Hurry and the Harm” is not the kind of album I should like. It has wall-of-sound production, and every other album I’ve heard by City and Colour vaguely annoyed me for being too maudlin.

Perhaps all those other albums (I listened to three of them) just suffered from a hangover of all the emo/screamo of Green’s original band, Alexisonfire. That band annoyed me for the bad punctuation in the band name alone, never mind the music itself. I was going to go and listen to a bunch of it again to better explain what I don’t like about Alexisonfire but I decided to go with the sour milk principle: one smell is plenty to know something is off.

OK, back to City and Colour’s “The Hurry and the Harm” which is not only correctly punctuated (resistance of the ampersand scores a lot of points with me) but is a thoroughly lovely example of indie pop.

The record has plenty of sad and maudlin topics, but Green delivers them with an emotional honesty that sold me on their authenticity. Also, these songs feature some haunting and ethereal melodies that perfectly match some existential dread of the angels that Green seems to be tapping into.

That angelic quality comes easily with Green’s vocals, which are way up high in his head voice, fluttering in and out of falsetto with a grace that Adam Levine would be proud of, except Green’s songs are better. He writes these songs for this style and while they would be hard for the rest of us mere mortals to sing, they are a perfect match to his talents.

The songs have lovely bones, and if you stripped out all that production and reverb they would be pretty little folk songs. A fragment of me longed to hear them this way, but most of me liked them just the way they were.

I was prepared to be unimpressed with this record, which I haven’t played in a while. Instead, I found myself regretting neglecting it for so long. It even has a haunting song about vampires (“Thirst”) which is a sure way to win my affection.

On “The Golden State” Green sings:

“Why's everyone still singing about California?
Haven't we heard enough about the Golden State?
I guess if you like sandy beaches and blue ocean water
There's something about it, to which I cannot relate
I need to see the leaves change and the snowflakes falling
I need to hear the call, the wind whistling through the winter pines”

It feels like the perfect song for the NBA finals, which features the Toronto Raptors against the Golden State Warriors. I hope the song has a resurgence as a result, and although I don’t care a whit about basketball I hope the Raptors. Not just to drown out all the God damned Leafs fans, although that will be nice for as long as it lasts. Also, to fill Dallas Green with a little joy, which is exactly what his record did for me.

Best tracks: The Hurry and the Harm, Harder Than Stone, Paradise, Commentators, Thirst, Take Care, Death’s Song

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