The transformation of City and Colour as a musical unit over the years has been extraordinary. Dallas Green started off the project as a solo player with only an acoustic guitar to keep him company but as each album has gone by the band has grown and the sound has grown with it. If I Should Go Before You is City and Colour’s fifth album in ten years which is remarkable considering in all that time the band has remained with an independent record label. City and Colour could certainly move to a bigger label if they desired but staying with Dine Alone Records is symbolic of what the band has become.
The album opens with Woman, a song packed with enough textures and tones to last you a lifetime. Gorgeous is a word that really doesn’t do it justice. This song is a classic example of how sounds can be laid down to form a musical landscape and the outcome is simply stunning. The song begins with electronic feedback sounds before each instrument is introduced separately into the equation, including Dallas Green on vocals. The musical storm builds and builds all the way through until all you’re left with is the same electronic feedback that introduced the song. Northern Blues follows and takes a more traditional route with shimmering guitar chords and vocal melodies that could only be City and Colour. When you listen to certain bands you know they have their own sound and their own way of doing things in a song, City and Colour are one of these bands and Northern Blues highlights that perfectly.
Mizzy C comes next and starts with jangling guitar chords before the full band comes in. When they do, it all blends together into yet another musical landscape that’s nothing but pleasant to listen to. The title track, If I Should Go Before You, opens with a guitar that is drenched in reverb and tremolo. This is only the fourth song on the album and already the songs are gripping you with the way they’ve been written, recorded and played. Certain effects like reverb and tremolo sound fantastic together and that’s certainly the case here. Killing Time is yet another example of this with guitars taking a main role in the feel of the song. Not too much, not too little. The amount of guitar is sometimes key and Dallas Green gets is spot on here. He plays when he needs to.
- Northern Blues
- Mizzy C
- If I Should Go Before You
- Killing Time
- Wasted Love
- Lover Come Back
- Map Of The World
Wasted Love in many ways is the first upbeat song on the album with a great riff to open the song that continues until the song ends. But between the start and finish of this number, the listener is treated to some fantastic guitar and keys playing. Half way through an electric guitar comes in for a gorgeous solo before the riff begins again, behind the feedback from the solo that just finished. It’s a fantastic song and definitely one of the highlights on the entire album. Runaway has a bit of country going on with the slide guitar in the chorus sections which is a nice touch and adds a different feel to the album, showing you that City and Colour have many musical weapons in their armoury. Lover Come Back comes next and the chorus in this song is absolutely beautiful from the vocal melodies to the overall feel of the song, musically.
Map Of The World changes the feel of the album a little, it sounds more like an unplugged song due to the presence of an acoustic guitar. There are a few cowboy western feels throughout the song which is hard to explain, you’ll know exactly what they are when you hear them for yourself. Following Map Of The World is a song called Friends, and at this point in the review I feel like I’m repeating myself in what I’m saying. Why? Guitars, tones, sounds. They’re exquisite and Friends is no different to what came before it. The final track, Blood, is predominantly an acoustic driven song but half way through a number of other instruments are introduced including a female backing singer which really adds to the overall beauty of the song. Before it finishes with lead vocals, guitar and piano, there is a dream like sequence with Dallas Green’s vocals dripping in reverb. This is a little reminiscent of the opening song, Woman, in terms of how the song builds and builds before finishing the way it started.
The thing that stands out most about this album is how fantastically written the songs are and on top of that, the way the songs are recorded. Every song is executed perfectly and you get a sense from the off that this is recorded music and it’s very best. Electric guitars take a lead role on every song on the album which you may think is normal but it’s the way the guitars are played that knocks you for six. The guitars grip you from the start of the first song to the end of the final song, they are sublime.
This may be the most enjoyable album by City and Colour yet.