Sound Advice: Birthmarks by Born Ruffians
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Sound Advice: Birthmarks by Born Ruffians

With its newest album, Born Ruffians has revolutionized its sound.


It’s expected that a band will evolve over time, refining its technique, becoming more confident in its aesthetic, and getting more creative in its approach. Individual members will become more proficient with their instruments, band chemistry will increase, and songwriters and lyricists will take more mature approaches to crafting records. But sometimes, a band will suddenly leap forward, leaving fans breathless and winning over detractors. With Birthmarks, a new release on Paper Bag Records, Born Ruffians has achieved this.

After the Ruffians’ first record, Red, Yellow & Blue, the Toronto-based indie band stumbled a little with its sophomore release, Say It, which cooled the group’s precocious reputation by merely maintaining the status quo. Rather than becoming frustrated or flailing, Born Ruffians’ members took the opportunity to re-evaluate and collect themselves, returning to a dynamic that had worked for them in the past. Living and working together, the four of them holed up in a Stratford farmhouse to write together, and emerged with their finest work to date.

Born Ruffians have traded their anxious, spare sound for a more lush and full instrumentation—something with just as much energy but a great deal more confidence. The bubbling-over urgency that spoke of a kind of desperation is replaced by the ecstatic, feedback-drenched maturity of “Rage Flows,” the groovy good vibes of “Oceans Deep,” and the rich, thick, layered “So Slow.”

It is “Needle,” however, that stands out on an incredibly strong album. Fresh and verdant, with a palpable, trembling vulnerability, it is nonetheless defined by a strong chorus and an incredibly hooky, infectious structure. (You can listen to it by clicking the sample, above.) Smart, catchy, and wholly authentic, Birthmarks is a breath of fresh air.