ALBUM: City And Colour – Little Hell

Release Date: June 7th, 2011
Label: Dine Alone/Vagrant


Dallas Green, it has been far too long. I’m a big City And Colour fan, and a few weeks ago I heard the lead single for ‘Little Hell’, ‘Fragile Bird’, and I have to admit that it left me a little cold. It seemed to signal a move away from the band’s signature sound, with its fuzzy bass line and driving rhythms. So much of their appeal lies in the personality and talent of Dallas Green, and on this track he seems somewhat lost in the mix. It got me thinking, what if the frontman decides to take more of a back seat role on this release much like he did on Alexisonfire‘s latest EP, ‘Dog’s Blood’? What if his vocals are more downplayed? It quelled my excitement for the album a little bit, and I was prepared to be underwhelmed.

But, playing ‘Little Hell’ for the first time, all of these doubts were well and truly quashed. I can safely say that this is one of the best albums you will hear all year, and if you are already a fan of the band, easily the best they’ve released so far. The album signals the natural progression of Dallas‘s song writing, from the angst and drama of debut ‘Sometimes’, to the more subdued and melancholic ‘Bring More Your Love’, to a true sense of maturity and aura of paternity on ‘Little Hell’. The core acoustic sound is still here but beefed up with more prominent drums and electric augmentation. It is a fuller, bluesier sound that feels at once robust and intricate. The songs, particularly the harmonies, are spot on throughout, with Dallas showing complete dominion over his versatile and unique voice. It is a truly spectacular vocal performance.

But, that’s enough of a general overview, on to the songs. ‘Little Hell’ starts on a soaring high with the uplifting ‘We Found Each Other In The Dark’, which serves to pick the listener up and get them singing along. ‘Natural Disasters’ keeps this tone going, before rolling sweetly in to ‘Grand Optimist’ which, with its darker tone, brings things in to more familiar territory, leading in to an absolute stomper of a chorus. The title track is another slice of the new C&C. It feels warm and familiar, in the same vein as ‘Sleeping Sickness’ from ‘Bring Me Your Love’. Next up is ‘Fragile Bird’, which shines least brightly next to the other songs, but none the less has a great chorus and heartfelt lyrics.

Now, the highlight of the album: the one-two hit of ‘O’ Sister’ and ‘Weightless’. The former is one of the most moving tracks the band have written since ‘Sometimes (I Wish)’, with a real feeling of intimacy in the lyrics and a rousing chorus. Then ‘Weightless’ drifts in with a vocal solo from Dallas, sounding truly ethereal and ghostly, before the rest of the band kick up. It’s full-band C&C done right; which ‘Fragile Bird’ didn’t quite manage to pull off, and is one of the most powerful and songs the band have. It’s awesome.

‘Silver And Gold’ feels like a calming breeze after those last two tracks. Dallas has really learnt how to paint a beautiful picture with his music, and it feels like a song you could get lost in. Then, finally, ‘Hope For Now’, with its soft piano accompaniment, brings ‘Little Hell’ to a close. Much like the closers on their previous albums, this song is imbued with both sorrow and hope, and provides a fitting end to a superb album.

The whole of ‘Little Hell’ has a really effective ebb and flow to it, a perfect balance of slower, melancholic numbers, and uproarious and heartfelt blues pieces. It all works together seamlessly and is incredibly satisfying to listen to. I literally cannot recommend this album enough. If you have even a passing interest in C&C‘s music, you owe it to yourself to hear this. Truly life affirming stuff.

Written by Grant Bailey

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