City and Colour – The Love Still Held Me Near (Album Review)
City and Colour – The Love Still Held Me Near
Released: March 31st, 2023
Dallas Green | vocals
Erik Nielsen | bass
Leon Power | drums
John Sponarski | guitars
Man, are City and Colour fans lucky! Not only did we get to witness Daddy Dallas Green (yeah, sorry, I went there) and his glorious pipes in real life back in February– but we also now get to take in a brand-new album- The Love Still Held Me Near. After falling in love with the sad boi acoustic project back in the mid-2000s, fans have been treated to six albums, but it has undergone many changes – notably of which is the fact that there is now a full band rather than just Dal and his guitar. Let’s look at the seventh album from the outfit.
The album is themed around loss, working through it and coming out the other side, and the opening track, ‘Meant To Be’ dives straight into the depths of this. The song works through Dallas’s best friend’s death and coming face to face with his own mortality and faith. Imagine your friend honouring your memory with such a beautiful, heartfelt song. From here, the album goes into the second and third singles we have already been lucky enough to hear – ‘Underground’ and ‘Fucked It Up’. The former reflects on a life on the road and the desire to stop running and settle down. It also contains one of my favourite song lyrics, “Like a great Canadian darkness / I will cover you” – there’s just something so literal about it, and it has always stood out to me when listening to this song.
‘Fucked It Up’ was inspired by the impasse of Dallas’ 11-year marriage, which took a break and has since reconciled, and the reality that life can test even the strongest of relationships. This song is sad but uplifting and a realistic love song. Love and life aren’t always perfect – long-lasting love requires a lot of work, and this gorgeous song reminds the listener of this with beautiful harmonies and hard-hitting lyrics.
From the super strong start to the album, we come to the title track, ‘The Love Still Held Me Near’, which starts with funky keyboards and guitars and builds into a big chorus. The bass on this song is incredible- it walks all over the place and helps the song’s tone.
It’s no secret that City and Colour‘s sound has changed a fair bit over the years, and this is bound to happen as Dallas has taken it from a solo acoustic project to a full band. The band has moved into what I like to call a “Nashville” sound – I am sure there is a more technical name for it, but I am not really a technical person. While song six on the album ‘The Things We Choose To Care About’ still has the now signature slide guitar – it feels more like an older City and Colour song with mainly acoustic guitar and a slower, quieter vibe. ‘After Disaster’ continues these slower vibes with more incredible bass guitar, gorgeous ‘oooohs’ from Dallas and great guitar parts.
Then comes ‘Without Warning’, which has an awesome soul vibe and swinging rhythm. It is the kind of song you could see a couple slow dancing to in a pergola under fairy lights. Dallas lets his vocals loose in this song, and you can easily picture a female R&B or soul diva belting this song out. This is another reflective love song with some sadness but is mostly optimistic, especially in the chorus, which says, “Though we lost it all without warning / after dark always comes morning / you know we can make it one more night”.
As I have mentioned in previous City and Colour reviews, the common misconception is that the songs are super sad and depressing, but even the saddest of C&C songs from back in the day had elements of optimism. This album takes life’s trials and tribulations, shows that everyone goes through them and can relate and that you can come through even the hardest of times. ‘Hard, Hard Time’ talks about this directly, saying that despite things being challenging, life is mostly great and worth living to the fullest. The closing song, ‘Begin Again’ sees Dallas in his lower register for much of the verses, which is fantastic to hear and something we don’t hear as much anymore. Time and time again, when seeing City and Colour or listening to any of their songs, I am just blown away by this man’s talent.
Here comes the honesty – while I am a HUGE City and Colour fan, besides the singles – I haven’t kept across City and Colour albums since their 2013 album The Hurry and the Harm. Much of that is because the more country sound isn’t necessarily my vibe. Like everyone back in 2006, when Dallas Green first started releasing songs under the moniker, I was captured by the emo-ness of the songs and the contrast between this music and the heaviness of Alexisonfire. In saying this, though, I do like that what was once a solo project has blossomed into a band with its signature sound, and the fullness of the band has helped the optimistic, happier feeling shine through the songs.
I think City and Colour is one of those cases where we think we want the sound to stay the way it was, but if we got that, we would maybe end up bored. When you stop to think about it, one man singing sad song after song might not hold up for that long. City and Colour headed in this direction from their third album Little Hell, and while I haven’t kept up with all of the releases, I am super thankful that this band has come back into my life. This album is excellent, it’s sonically and thematically diverse, and no one can say it is depressing. It is incredibly uplifting and hopeful, even while discussing terrible times in Dallas’ life. We’ve all been through tough times over the past few years, but hopefully, we are all starting to come out of it, and things will start looking up.
City and Colour – The Love Still Held Me Near tracklisting:
1. Meant to Be
3. Fucked it Up
4. The Love Still Held Me Near
5. A Little Mercy
6. Things We Choose to Care About
7. After Disaster
8. Without Warning
9. Hard, Hard Time
10. The Water is Coming
11. Bow Down to Love
12. Begin Again
Rating: 7 ½/10
The Love Still Held Me Near is Out 31st March via Dine Alone Records. Pre-Order here
Review by Cait Macca @cait_2tone