Friday, July 8, 2011

The Double Cross

By now Sloan's most recent album "The Double Cross" is out so I figured I'd talk about it because it's really good and there's an off chance that one of the three people that read my blog will give it a whirl. Jill's already heard it though so I guess it will go unnoticed for the most part. Anyhoo here's my review.

Sloan has been on the scene for two decades now which is no small feat considering what happens to most groups after twenty years. They either get a little better or a lot worse. The latter is usually the case. Sloan is fortunate to be comprised of four exceptional songwriters that each bring their unique vision to their albums resulting in an even mix of tunes. Always regarded as one of those "Why aren't they bigger?" bands they're reasonably popular in their native Canada and enjoy a cult following in the U.S. Calling "The Double Cross" more of the same would be a compliment. They've had their near misses but even those have come to be highly regarded in my library. That's not the case here. It's near perfection. Here's why.

1. Follow The Leader
I heard this song early and was immediately smitten with it. It actually filled me with dread for the rest of the album since something so good is usually accompanied by crap. Not so. It's actually the perfect lead track in that it sets the tone.

2. The Answer Was You
I go nuts for Jay Ferguson and he's on top of his game with every track on this album. "Answer" is so sugary that many might dismiss it after the first listen which is unfortunate because the song is a master's course in how to wright a pop song.

3. Unkind
I give Patrick a hard time for writing habitually writing my least favorite Sloan songs. He's like their Paul McCartney in that he's penned some of their very best songs as well as some of my least favorite. This track fits in perfectly following up "Answer." Every time I listen to this song I find another little thing that I like.

4. Shadow Of Love
This is another song I wanted to hate but thanks to Beverly Terrace it takes on a whole new life. It's frantic riffs and bass runs are perfect. Easily the best use of a clap track I've heard in a long time. I think a bridge or heavy guitar solo would have ruined this song. I'm glad they showed some restraint.

5. She's Slowin' Down Again
Andrew is the whiskey of the group. Easily an acquired taste his songs ask a lot of the listener. There's an air of maturity that can be alienating but once you learn to appreciate what went into a song like this you gain a whole new appreciation for it. I hate to call this a musician's song because that's a little pompous but I think he likes to season his tracks with just enough subtle bits that those who catch them can really appreciate them more.

6. Green Gardens, Cold Montreal
I get stupid for songs like this. You can tell it started as an instrument heavy song that was gradually trimmed down until only the most essential pieces were left. It could have easily been A Capella and still had the same depth.

7. It's Plain To See
After "Green Gardens" grounds us we're abruptly pulled out of our seats for the first Sloan song you can actually dance to. I'm talking Kevin Bacon in "Footloose" dancing. It's less than two minutes so if you don't pay attention you're going to miss it.

8. Your Daddy Will Do
This is one of those "carrot on a stick" songs. It's very similar one of Jay's songs from "Between The Bridges" but as soon as you think you're hearing a reprise to "Don't You Believe A Word" it goes in the other direction. When the flutes give way to an ethereal organ track you realize that there's way more happening.

9 I've Gotta Know.
Originally, I wasn't sure what this song is doing on this album. It's very similar to "Shadow" which is the 4th track. Having this one 4th from the end does create a bit of a book end which almost cleanses the palate for the next track.

10. Beverly Terrace
This is easily the best song on the album. It's got sentimental value to me since I've seen almost every live, Sloan show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood which is almost adjacent to the Hotel Beverly Terrace. It's very attached to the album without getting lost in the mix. The reprise to "Shadow Of Love" is incredibly well placed making you wonder which was written first. I can't say enough good things about this song.

11. Traces
You'd miss Andrew's songs if they weren't there. Definitely not part of a group effort I'm brought back to my whiskey metaphor. The song is crafted with an emphasis on lyrics placed over an easily forgettable backing track that moves between the verses and chorus so effortlessly you'd miss it if you weren't looking for it.

12. Laying So Low
I can't think of a better way to end an album. If they were to play this live from start to finish there would be no need for an encore since this song wraps things up so well you don't want a PS on the end of it for fear of tainting what you've just listened to.

I'm not just going nuts for this because I love Sloan. It's just such a solid album that I can't help but go on and on about all the little bits I appreciate. There are caveats to it. You have to listen to it from start to finish. No skipping and no shuffling. There's never a bad time to discover Sloan. The only reason people haven't is because they've quietly done their work and succeeded without sex tapes, run-ins with the law, or the general douche-baggery that sells millions of records for other pop stars. They're like a great restaurant that not everybody knows about but those that do love and protect it.

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