[Album Review] City and Colour- If I Should Go Before You Do
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Release Date: October 9th, 2015
Label: Release Date

There was a time where I’d frequently listen to Toronto’s 102.1 The Edge, a radio station that played alt-rock hits of the present and past. One snowy night–the details are rough–Dallas Green, the lead of City and Colour, talked about someone who asked why the band was named the way it was. Now this isn’t like the John Cage joke, where, if you don’t get it, music snobs will sneer at you. Nor is this like the story of how Alexisonfire, Green’s other project, got their band name. The answer to the acquaintance’s question is in your face, something that the best aspects of If I Should Go Before You are. These aspects shoot at you because the loud and, sometimes, large in space.

In “Woman,” the band creates an atmosphere that almost resembles outer space without crafting something with a post-rock flair. The song, which is filled with psychedelically distorted guitar, has Green singing like he was channelling wiccan magic and generating a world with only his love. When he cries, he becomes like Chelsea Wolfe and explores a level of vocal ecstasy that’s as frightening as it is space-filling. His love becomes so consuming that oceans can’t hold it. This album generates the night better than the campfire sort of dwellings in Little Hell, a previous release of City and Colour’s. “Woman,” despite its lack of lyrics, is an ambitious sonic piece that differentiates itself from the electric blues the rest of the album generates.

“Northern Blues” shows off the ’70s style synth for the first time on the record, feeling a little goofy, like it had been taken from a jukebox only meant for groovy tunes. That said, Green’s vocal range is shown off here, and even with age–a concept that is explored throughout the album (“Map of the World,” “Mizzy C,” “Killing Time”)–he knows how to leave his crowds speechless. With “Mizzy C” and “Lover Come Back,” the band’s country influences begin to show, whether it’s through the former’s jam-worthy chorus or the latter’s drums and gospel feeling. It’s strange to hear the band emulate some of Jimmy Buffett’s sound in “Runaway,” but they’ll be forgiven for that because of the better tracks this record hashes out. Don’t head out to Margaritaville yet…

With “Killing Time,” the band’s playing shifts to jazzy bar blues, the kind that you might find college groups playing at their local pub, provided that the couple upstairs making love will allow that. The line “Running from the shadow of my former shadow’s life” can swoon listeners and make them think of the mysteriousness of their lovers. At the end of each chorus, the band finds a way to build up their sound to illuminate and rattle. Its guitar solo never fully steals the show due to the perfect synchronicity the band have with each other. Finally, “Blood” feels like the song that the band wanted to perfect but never had gotten the chance to until now. It’s an ominous take with harmonizing and soaring brass that allows the band, especially Green, to transcend their human skin to a zenith of wonder and perfect darkness. Below them is a brand new day but they’re so entranced in the song that it doesn’t matter.

While some of Green’s takes might not see the light of the radio, the songs on this record show that age can become one’s strength and not something synonymous with a cane. Though City and Colour have yet to reach their mid-life crisis state, the band show a readiness for the wrinkle of time that awaits them as they grow older.