Sound Advice: Little Hell by City and Colour
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.
“Recently I said in an interview that I don’t want to make people dance—I want to make people cry,” recalls Dallas Green in a mini-documentary about City and Colour’s third album, Little Hell (out today on Dine Alone). “But I think I have to take that back.”
Yes, Little Hell kind of makes you want to dance. Lead single “Fragile Bird” (streaming right), featuring a slick blues-funk groove replete with a skronky fuzz guitar solo, is a spirited departure from Green’s usual sad-guy-with-an-acoustic shtick. He ramps up the rock elsewhere: “Weightless” has an electrified behind-the-beat pull reminiscent of Ragged Glory–era Neil Young, while “Natural Disaster” is a buoyant, Southern-tinged pop gem. For the most part, however, Little Hell makes you want to cry again.
There are plenty of delicate folk dirges here—enough to remind you that City and Colour is still the Alexisonfire guitarist’s touchy-feely alter ego. But what’s changed most noticeably is the subject matter Green’s making you blubber about. Whereas previous releases Sometimes and Bring Me Your Love were full of vague heartbreak anthems that could easily be MacGyvered into panty droppers, this record confronts intimate anxieties so candidly it’d make Kanye West sweat. On “O’ Sister,” Green addresses his sister’s mental health problems in an upfront, barefaced manner (“Does it have something to do with the pills they gave to you?”). “The Grand Optimist” sees him lament the schism between his own pessimism and his father’s rosy world view. Heck, “Fragile Bird” even plunges into the night terrors suffered by his wife, which is particularly revealing as we all know who she is: TV host Leah Miller.
Little Hell is one big step outside of Green’s comfort zone—sonically and, above all, thematically. Rather than whine about his girlfriend being in a different area code, he’s now more inclined to roll up his sleeves and wrestle palpable demons head on. This time around he’s not concerned with making you cry; he’s too busy dealing with things that make him cry. And those are man tears he’s weeping.