Rating: NNNN (out of 5) Sound: Renewed hope lies dormant underneath chords of joy paired with lyrical despair If you like: Death Cab for Cutie, Vance Joy, Hozier Best track:Underground
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ON HIS SEVENTH FULL-LENGTH RELEASE, The Love Still Held Me Near, out on Friday, Dallas Green, a.k.a. City and Colour, writes the album that should have never been. After the sudden deaths of two of his close companions and the separation and eventual reconciliation with his wife, listeners can understand why these songs are steeped in tragedy.
“I’ve been acquainted with the dead / And the gratitude I owe to them, I could never comprehend,” he sings on Hard, Hard Time. Sonically, it’s not all doom and gloom, though. In fact, the album sounds pretty easygoing. If you weren’t listening attentively to the lyrics, you may not even register the devastating meanings.
The Water Is Coming is one of those tracks — an upbeat yet brooding six-minute epic on giving up, complete with a gliding guitar solo. Though the lyrics are loaded with spite, there is still an underlying thread of hope in his voice that he is wrong.
This is where Green shines most — his lyrics have always been his greatest strength. They’re deeply personal, yet still relatable for any listeners that have experienced a loss. However, on the surface level, the album may seem repetitive or just more of the same as his other music.
Fans of City and Colour will already be familiar with the guitars and instrumentals. He’s not breaking new territory there — he is simply refining his songwriting.
The songs aren’t specifically about any event that occurred in his life, but fit into an overarching theme of loss; Green asks life’s greatest questions about the love we deserve. Though these themes of death and darkness seem despairing, there are glimmers of hope on Underground, A Little Mercy, and closing track Begin Again. Above all, there is gratefulness. Green acknowledges the pain he has suffered, then looks past it.
He knows that perhaps he’s taken life for granted in the past, but there is still a lot to appreciate and experience. “Let’s just forget the unforgiving presence of death / And live wild and free,” he sings on Underground. The song is soaring and expansive — anything but hopeless.
The Love Still Held Me Near is perhaps the most distilled version of City and Colour. Its musicality flows, bursting out — every note is thoughtful and every moment calculated. The album focuses tightly on pain, at times wallowing in it, but ultimately holds out for hope.