REVIEW: City and Colour – ‘The Hurry and the Harm’

the hurry and the harm

Artist: City and Colour
Album: The Hurry and the Harm
Genre: Acoustic/folk
Label: Dine Alone Records

Somehow, City and Colour have eluded me until now. I have several friends who are big fans and I’ve heard nothing but reverential praise for the project, but even as an Alexisonfire appreciator I’ve never found myself moved to look it up. The curious thing is, after listening to The Hurry and the Harm, I don’t actually feel the need to. And I mean that as a compliment. It’s a wistful, touching introduction (for me) to Dallas Green’s solo work but it is such a complete and rewarding experience that it never feels like you’ve missed something fundamental by not having heard all of the earlier releases. Granted, I can’t really say that from a position of authority, and I fully intend to acquaint myself with the latter, but I do feel it’s a testament to The Hurry and the Harm’s pervasive charm that it feels so welcoming and accessible to a newfound listener.

City and Colour represents the more observant, thoughtful side of Dallas Green’s musical talents and his work is incredibly insightful. He writes a fine line in musical poetry and, unlike many lyrics, it is poetry – soul-searching, often quite bleak, with a very personal and even reluctant nature to it. His lyrics are drawn from very recognisable situations and openly and emotively describe the beguiling dilemmas of everyday interactions. If anything, it reminds me of a far gentler and more introspective Frank Turner, whose incisive lyrics are ever relatable and very haunting. It’s actually interesting to read that Green has expressed some difficulty in composing lyrics in the past, because the songs on this album sound so completely natural. They have no one distinct sound, changing course and mood as freely as the writer. The overwhelming impression is actually one of guardedness – as if Green is of two minds about sharing his thoughts, producing snippets of himself but singing so delicately as to be almost protective. This makes for a distinct darkness to some tracks while others benefit from a keen spirit and upbeat focus.

Of all the songs on here, the one that stands out most distinctly is “The Lonely Life.” Its rhythmic, even jazzy tones belie a very real plight and deep sense of crisis at its centre. Green, singing mournfully of the “lonely life of a writer whose words cannot pay his debts”, infuses the song with a desperate urgency. It shifts in tone and tempo between the verse and the chorus, with the latter deploying a barer, more authentic guitar to accompany a bereft plea. This fragmented structure makes the sense of uncertainty all the more vivid and the song’s intensity all the more affecting. “Of Space and Time” is also persistently haunted. Green conveys such enormity in such languid vocals, presenting the grim portrait of a wanderer who is ever searching yet struggles to be enamoured with the things he finds. “Two Coins” is devastatingly gorgeous. The instruments play sombrely, even bleakly, and once again buckle in a painfully resigned chorus that sings sadly of “always [being] dark, with light somewhere in the distance.” The string arrangements do much to enhance the poignant sentiments but it is the brief glimpse of a guitar solo at the end, the one thing breaking free of his melancholy, that seals the song.

The organic notes of “Take Care” are almost beguiling after the intensity of what precedes it. The track has the air of something that’s already lost, as Green’s dulcet singing and acoustic guitar makes it sound more like a remembrance than an ode. It seems almost frozen in its finality, but there is palpable feeling to it. The ebb and flow of the vocals – which rise and fall like momentary pauses for thought – are very touching. In the midst of this sorrowful landscape, “Thirst” stands out for its distinctly futuristic sound. It opens with a bruising, synth-like beat and gradually adds more snaking instrumentation, creating a kind of heightened soundscape that’s at complete odds with the vocals. There’s something very mysterious to this track, its electronic moves provoking thought where other songs are blunter and more intimate.

The Hurry and the Harm is slow-burning and melancholy, and necessarily relies on the listener being absorbed enough to perceive of the beauty at its heart. But it is a journey that enchants with every saddened question and contradiction. I can’t imagine any thinking listener demanding more of an album.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

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  • K. Bennett

    How great it must be to be able to listen to the entire City and Colour library for the first time. I love love love love The Hury and the Harm, but it isn’t even his best in my opinion. I remember when he just had one album that wasn’t available in the US other than iTunes.

  • Grace

    It’s always refreshing to see an artist come so far like that – especially one with so much obvious talent. I’m really looking forward to investing in his other albums. Thanks for reading!

  • Julia Beate

    I’ve been listening to City and Colour since 2007, and I don’t know how he does it, but it just becomes more amazing by the minute.

    I really enjoyed reading your review. My personal favorite is The Lonely Life too. I hope you still choose to listen to old DG songs, maybe live on youtube – they are the best, such as Hello I’m in Delaware, Natural Disaster, Silver and Gold, Waiting, Body in a Box(!).