If I Should Go Before You, City and Colour

Over the last ten years, Dallas Green has consistently put out critically acclaimed albums under the name of City and Colour, but the only song I really knew was arguably his most popular: the cute, folksy “The Girl” from 2008’s Bring Me Your Love. The style of this track is typical of the rest of his work, so I was expecting more of the same from the October 9th release of If I Should Go Before You. But I, and the rest of his fans, were in for a big surprise. If I Should Go blends Green’s traditional wistful, acoustic melodies with a grungier, more rock-centered sound than he has previously embraced, and although it has a few weak moments, as a whole it exceeded my expectations and proves that he is capable of expanding beyond his established style.

The album begins with the fantastic “Woman”, a transcendent nine-minute long epic that beautifully blends lyrical imagery and raw vocals. Green’s gorgeous falsetto, when paired with the slowly building electric guitars in the background, gradually intensifies into a romantic, yet heart-breaking, picture of the immortality of love. This is really the album’s stand out track, and it sets a promising tone for what is to come.

If I Should Go stays strong through its next few songs, retaining its polished indie-rock vibe through “Northern Blues” and the heavy, melodic “Mizzy C”. The title track hearkens back to Green’s acoustic tradition, but the tonal shift feels right at this point in the development of the album. “Killing Time” and “Wasted Love” round out the solid first half of the album, combining themes of apathy and unrequited love in catchy, beautifully vocalized grooves.

The album definitely slumps in the back half, however, as it shifts into a country-influenced sound that doesn’t mesh well with the rock- and blues-tinged openers. “Runaway” really marks this unfortunate transition – coming on the tail of the electric “Wasted Love,” its twangy riffs and uninspired lyrics create an almost campy feel from which the album takes a while to recover. The following three tracks all fall into this same rut; although they’re good songs on their own, they are an underwhelming followup to the amazing first half. A restructuring of the track order to integrate the country tunes with the rock ones would help to fix this disconnect, although I’d be perfectly happy if they were just replaced with a few more songs in the vein of “Northern Blues.”  The finger-picked “Blood” marks the end of the album with yet another acoustic track, but one that is more in line with indie darlings Iron & Wine than Tim McGraw. With a haunting chorus that reminds us of the beauty that lies beneath everyday mundanity, the final track pulls together the album’s sometimes contrasting elements into a compelling, cathartic journey through mortality and lost love.

Frequently both lyrically and melodically astounding, it’s clear that the highs on this album far outweigh the lows. Green has his entire career to prove that he’s very good at penning lonesome guitar ballads, but If I Should Go really emphasizes his most impressive instrument: his voice. It also proves that he’s capable of artistic flexibility, and it hints at a range of talents of which I can’t wait to hear more.

If you loved this album as much as I did, you should definitely check out City and Colour live at Echostage on December 11th!

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