By Sonny Sachdeva, Nov. 3 2015 —
Five albums into his City and Colour project, Canadian folk bard Dallas Green has officially left the acoustic confessions that defined his early work behind. His latest, If I Should Go Before You, highlights an artist in search of a musical identity.
City and Colour began as a side project to Green’s work in Canadian post-hardcore outfit Alexisonfire, but Green has continued to expand his sound since. On If I Should Go, he casts aside his characteristic emotional meanderings and sets his sights on the calm, collected patterns of conventional indie rock.
This progression is most apparent on the album’s ethereal opener, “Woman,” which trends more in the direction of Alexisonfire’s 2009 hit “Burial” than anything from City and Colour’s catalogue.
In fact, much of the group’s newest collection sounds like an exercise in imitation instead of a true representation of Green’s skill set. While If I Should Go’s tracks are all fairly satisfying, most attempt styles we haven’t seen from Green before, leading to mixed results.
“Runaway” highlights this, flirting with an old-school indie style that evokes The Shins. But the complex composition and lyricism that made that band exceptional don’t shine through in City and Colour’s attempts, leaving it mired in mediocrity.
It isn’t that Green’s songs fall flat — the album’s title track succeeds with some undeniably gorgeous harmonies — but they are missing the poignant emotional touch that made albums like Sometimes and Bring Me Your Love seminal indie-folk works. We are rarely treated to Green’s striking vocal power. Instead, he sits back and calmly coasts through the album.
Only in If I Should Go’s closer, “Blood,” do we get a vintage Dallas Green track. While the finale is truly a beautiful piece of work, its lyrics betray the album as a whole, highlighting a flaw that undermines the entire collection as Green sings “I know there’s beauty buried beneath the surface of what we see.”