REVIEW: City And Colour – Little Hell


Artist: City And Colour
Album: Little Hell
Genre: Folk/Indie
Label: Dine Alone/Vagrant

Some albums end up taking on a special meaning in my life, it’s always a complete accident, I never plan on an album resonating with me for years, especially with the endless barrage of music coming out of the woodwork, when a band’s new album is essentially disposable, it’s downloaded for free, put on repeat for a couple weeks, and then discarded when the next hot batch of albums drop. Sometimes a certain album gets stuck to something, something long past, and intangible; a season, a specific moment in time, a completely random circumstance, anything really. This exact phenomenon occurred with City and Colour’s last album, Bring Me Your Love, there is no one in the world that recalls the feelings and images I feel, when they listen to this album, but the association is so strong, and the emotional connection so real, that the album has taken on an importance that transcends just the songs themselves. Whenever I listen to that album, I am brought back, to when I was driving my 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo – with a 327 small block swap, for those interested – through Massachusetts, it was cold, dark, and rainy but it is Massachusetts, it’s always cold, dark, and rainy. That car is currently parked in a driveway, awaiting a bit of surgery, but every time I hear “Sleeping Sickness”, I’m back in the bench seat of my Monte Carlo. Any more explanation than that is unnecessary, the details are immaterial, it takes me back to a simple memory, an inconsequential event, one that has been possibly blurred by nostalgia, but I don’t care. Whenever I listen to that album, it doesn’t simply play on my sense of hearing anymore, it stirs my mind, it brings memories flooding back; memories that have been tucked away, in favor of information that my mind has deemed more pertinent to my every day life; my credit card number, my bank account balance, whether or not I took my allergy medicine; the “important” things in life. But once that album comes on, all those senseless things go away, all I can think about is cruising down Commonwealth Ave in my Monte Carlo, listening to City and Colour, being perfectly content with the world around me.

Which of course, puts the new City and Colour album, Little Hell at a distinct disadvantage from the start, not only was Bring Me Your Love a fantastic album in it’s own right, the intangible details that I have come to associate the album with have made it mean so much more. Little Hell doesn’t have anything of that magnitude attached to it just yet. And I don’t want to forget those memories, I don’t want to replace them, I want to create something new to go with Little Hell. When I first heard the album it was just me and the music, that was all, I was staring at my computer screen, I wasn’t thinking about anything, not anything as important as my Monte Carlo anyway, alone with the music, which isn’t a bad thing, but I could feel the missing, intangible factor that I had come to associate with other City and Colour albums. I was being stubborn, I wanted to not like this album, so I could just keep listening to Bring Me Your Love, and not have to be bothered with getting into a new album. But I couldn’t. Try as I might, I couldn’t hate this album. Truth be told, I didn’t stand a chance, from the moment the album started, with “We Found Each Other In The Dark”, a nice downtempo song, with Dallas Green’s signature soothing but aching vocals, a subtle acoustic guitar, and a beautifully haunting lap steel guitar. This feel continued throughout Little Hell as the album has a darker feel to it than previous efforts from City and Colour. This album replaces those feelings of dejected melancholy found on old City and Colour albums, with a brooding darkness; being driven most of the way by the weeping lap steel guitar. This album works as an entire entity, some tracks stood out as being exceptionally good, such as “The Grand Optimist”, and the terribly honest and haunting “O’Sister’”, but this album isn’t really a collection of songs, it’s one grand composition. I never found myself wanting to repeat any songs incessantly, not because they weren’t deserving, but because I wanted to hear the next song, just as much as the last. The album culminates with the hugely powerful “Hope For Now”, a song that acts as one last, exhausting release; eerie piano parts evolve into searing vocals and dirty guitars, before the album fades to silence, leaving the listener reeling, trying to take in the hugely cathartic emotional release brought on by the album.

At first, I thought there was no way this album could stack up to Bring Me Your Love, in fact, I didn’t want it to. I, however, was very wrong. This album is certainly the most honest, well thought out, and powerful release from City and Colour. And I suppose, it’s very special when an artist can create something so powerful that it can transcend musical boundaries, and take on a presence that is so much bigger. And Dallas Green continues to do so time and time again with every City and Colour release. I’m not longer worried, but excited to really get to know this album, I just need some time to get better acquainted with it; perhaps a couple hours with Little Hell and my motorcycle on the Maryland back roads is in order.

SCORE: 10/10
Review written by: Michael Hogan

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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