Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Most alt-country bands these days may be all hat and no cattle, but One Hundred Dollars are fine as cream gravy. Their 2008 debut, Forest of Tears, despite being recorded when the band was only six weeks old, put most of their rural-sounding contemporaries to shame, eschewing the wife-beaters ‘n’ whiskey clichés for starkly observational ditties about contemporary situations. Their sophomore effort, Songs of Man, does the same, but a whole heck of a lot better.
Now a broken-in and beefed-up sextet, the band experiments with more ambitious arrangements on this record, dabbling in piano-led dirges (“Brother”), Spaghetti Western shuffles (“Ties That Bind”), and even a pinch of Fleetwood Mac (“Waiting On Another”). The core of these tunes, however, still centres around singer Simone Schmidt’s poetic portraits of downcast humanity—now more heartwrenching than ever. In a reverb-drenched, world-weary drawl, she assumes the perspective of a different crestfallen soul in each song: “Where The Sparrows Drop” sees her offer a sympathetic embrace to a couple wrenched apart by financial insecurity and war, while on foreboding album closer “Black Gold” (streaming above) she stands in the shoes of Fort McMurray oil workers forced to leave their families and wrestle with wanton temptations.
Though Songs of Man could easily be confused for a protest record, it really isn’t. Rather than mobilizing people to make a difference, One Hundred Dollars merely illustrate cold hard truths via matter-of-fact requiems. It may be depressing, but it’s got our undivided attention. For a country record, that’s no turkey shoot.