A Pill For Loneliness

City And Colour

Still Records, 2019


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The oft-repeated sentiment since the advent of social media is that, although we are more easily connected, we often feel more alone.

I’ll leave it to experts to write scholarly essays on why, but part of it boils down to the essential truth that we crave real, human connection. A text message is not real communication, not in a way that satiates. Hundreds of likes and comments provide a dopamine hit, but it’s not truth. And in the absence of human connection, we turn to the old reliable standards; hobbies, substances, hookups, emptiness.

Such is the conceit that bubbles under the surface of City and Colour’s fifth album, A Pill for Loneliness, and its standout song “Strangers,” the best song of the band’s career and perhaps one of the finest alt-rock songs of the last five years. Over a chugging, insistent clang of a beat, with some Black Keys-style overdriven guitar providing color, Dallas Green meditates on modern society: “Searching for God at the bottom of bottles and in strangers’ eyes / We’re living in desperation, drowning in medication / Lost in the valley of our age … we are strangers in this life,” before pleading “Can we get back to learning how to live?”.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It's a gut punch, and not the only one on the album, which also finds Green ruminating on violence, love, the need to wander and explore, and some other bleak observations akin to “Strangers,” such as the part in “Young Lovers” where he asks “Where did we go wrong / Will there be a future to look back from? / Feels like God is long gone.” Yet he remains optimistic that things can get better: “No I will not seek forgiveness / from a world that’s grown so cold and vicious / I’m gonna keep on living / Til the dancing days are gone,” he sings in “Imagination,” and you want to believe it.

The 11 songs here are lush but downbeat indie rock; the best songs tend to be the faster ones, like “Strangers” and “Imagination,” and the album sags under the weight of too many slow songs that don’t leave much of a musical impact. Green may be on point lyrically, but you won’t be remembering “The War Years” or “Me And The Moonlight” or “Lay Me Down” much after you hear them. The one slow song that works is “Mountain Of Madness,” a slow blues with a plaintive lyric: “What is this great misunderstanding / Where do we go from here … The streets are on fire, the roses are dead and gone … Underneath our blood runs red / And that’s what makes us all the same.” There’s even a slow, noisy guitar solo to close the piece. One wonders what Joe Bonamassa could do with the track.

So, come for “Strangers” and the lyrics, enjoy the production, and maybe share your favorite songs from the album with someone you care about. Because that is what life is about.

Rating: B-

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