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.
The Double Cross—or, as it’s being called, XX (as in the roman numeral for 20)—is Sloan‘s 10th studio album. The four-headed Toronto group formed 20 years ago (get that album title now?) in Halifax, laying the foundation for a new era in Canadian indie rock. They’ve rolled right along with it (er, minus that one short little sort-of break up), settling comfortably into their position as the “one and only real collective,” as bassist/vocalist Chris Murphy states in a recent timeline of the band’s career.
They’ve been critical and commercial hits, with a quality oeuvre that includes the bold statement album (Never Hear the End of It), the greatest hits album (A Sides Win), and the double live album (4 Nights At The Palais Royale). On The Double Cross, their first for Canadian label Outside, there’s no grand special-occasion intention—they’ve simply made a Sloan album, one of their crispest and most congruent in a while.
Murphy snags the opening track this time around, a punchy two-parter about growing up and going with the crowd called “Follow the Leader.” Its outro blends seamlessly into guitarist/vocalist Jay Ferguson’s gorgeous mid-tempo pop gem “The Answer Was You,” itself a segue into guitarist/vocalist Patrick Pentland’s stomping “Unkind,” whose intro boasts a subtle, wistful tone not often found in Sloan’s output. Then, barely before you can blink, Murphy hits it out of the park again on the amped-up Marshall Crenshaw-esque power-pop of “Shadow Of Love” (streaming above).
It’s at this point in the album that drummer/vocalist Andrew Scott first appears with “She’s Slowing Down Again,” but his real standout is the Dire Straits prog-roots of “Traces” later in the album, perhaps one of his most tuneful contributions yet. It’s a perfect statement for an album without a statement otherwise—a confidence and an ease that Sloan didn’t ever really lack, but were never quite this nonchalant about, either. Discerning the nuances of each member’s songs is an integral part of a Sloan album, but for people not necessarily interested in doing so, they won’t need to worry about it as much this time—The Double Cross is most cohesive.
For the diehards (right here!), the 20th anniversary is being commemorated outside of the album itself: there’s been a series of short video clips detailing the album track by track leading up to its release, and the first in a series of tribute videos features artists such as Broken Social Scene, Buck 65, Death From Above 1979, Billy Talent, Jason Schwartzman, The Dears, k-os, and Kids in the Hall‘s Dave Foley can be seen here. Happy anniversary, Sloan! Don’t ever, ever leave us.