There’s not any big revelations on City and Colour‘s third album, Little Hell, just a confirmation of what you might have guessed was possible based on 2008’s Bring Me Your Love and its predecessor Sometimes. Mainly, Dallas Green is a strong songwriter who can transcend his hardcore background with Alexisonfire and deliver the kind of earnest, straight-ahead roots/rock/pop album that even your mother wouldn’t mind tapping her toes along to. Recording direct to tape at Hamilton’s Catherine North studios suits Green and the songs well; there’s a intimate warmth and spaciousness to the album that I found lacking from his previous work. Little Hell makes the listener feel more like an invited guest to the proceedings rather than someone who accidentally stumbled into the studio.
Little Hell is a polished record, sure, but it hasn’t had all its ragged glory ironed out. As always, Green’s lyrics are more about telling stories than finding the right rhyming couplet to complement the melody. On “The Grand Optimist”, Green’s introspective lyrics befit the song’s latent sprawling sound, as both careen through the mind’s darkest thoughts and sober realizations; as Green sings “I guess I take after my mother,” the bottom of the song falls out and a cavernous echo makes one wonder what’s so wrong with being like Mrs. Green.
By now, fans will have already heard “Northern Wind”, but if you haven’t listened yet, there’s no finer an introduction into what to expect on Little Hell. In a similar vein, the title track, “O’Sister” and “Silver and Gold” will fill your appetite for mid-tempo, indie-country-pop, while fans of the funky pop leanings of fist single “Fragile Bird” will delight in “Weightless” and the heaviness of closer “Hope For Now” (honestly, no wordplay intended). “We Found Each Other in the Dark”, the album’s opening number, is just about as beautiful a song as one could write without selling the devil your soul; for my money, it’s Green’s finest vocal performance of this record, or any other.
Little Hell is released June 7 on Dine Alone Records. You can still pre-order direct from the label here, or venture out and pick yourself up a copy tomorrow.
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