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Known for many years as the resident songbird of Alexisonfire, Dallas Green aka City and Colour has evolved into a prolific solo artist in his own right, and has become arguably one of Canada’s greatest musical exports this century. Appealing to a wide range of listeners from emo teeny boppers to inner-city hipsters, the guy has really struck a chord with his introspective brand of acoustic rock. His third full-length “Little Hell” is a huge departure from his emo rock beginnings of 2005’s “Sometimes”, offering what is undoubtedly his most developed and mature release to date.
Recorded and mixed to tape with Alex Newport (Death Cab For Cutie, At The Drive In), the record has a noticeably warm and full sound. From the incorporation of violin in “Northern Wind” to the moody slide-guitar of “Silver and Gold”, “Little Hell” relies much more heavily upon creating a sense of atmosphere than catchy sing-along choruses. Dallas tends to avoid the sappy lyrics of past releases (which in some ways was his particular charm), rather more subtly exploring the trials and tribulations of adult relationships and family. “Grand Optimist” deals with his father and is a melancholy insight into Green’s own pessimistic outlook, while “O’Sister” addresses his sister’s crippling depression.
The sing-songwriter employs his electric guitar on this release more than ever before, from the blues-laden hooks of the lead single “Fragile Bird” to the dirty, distorted guitars of the closer “Hope For Now”. The title track “Little Hell” sums up what City and Colour have become, combining Dallas’ delicate acoustic musings and the greater ambiance afforded by a full band. The final line, in which he cries “will we get out of this little hell?”, reinforces just how far this dude has come with his songwriting.
“Little Hell” is a consistent and enjoyable record which will no doubt see City and Colour further penetrate the mainstream with its largely radio-friendly tunes. For old fans, Dallas’ retreat from teen-friendly acoustic songs might be off-putting, but the musical progression on this record is sure to attract many newcomers too. While at times a little drawn out and slow, “Little Hell” is City and Colour’s most rounded and well-written release yet.
1. We Found Each Other in the Dark
2. Natural Disaster
3. The Grand Optimist
4. Little Hell
5. Fragile Bird
6. Northern Wind
7. O’ Sister
9. Sorrowing Man
10. Silver and Gold
11. Hope for Now