Sound — 8
Though Dallas Green was primarily tasked with being the clean, Tim McIlrath-esque vocalist and rhythm guitarist for one of Canada's most notable post-hardcore offerings, Alexisonfire, he would also indulge his desire for a softer music side with his solo folk project, City And Colour. Releasing the project's debut album, "Sometimes," in 2005, Green juggled both projects, although time would prove that he loathed being in Alexisonfire and fancied his work in City And Colour more, and with Alexisonfire disbanding in 2011, Green's preference and increasing investment in City And Colour in the years prior ended up being a smart move.
Sonically, City And Colour began as a humble, acoustic-driven outlet of songwriting for Green, but with each advancing album, the project's sound began to incorporate more electric instrumentation into its repertoire, and his 2013 album, "The Hurry and the Harm," would be defined by a large presence of fuzzy bass laying down a foundation for Green's acoustic compositions. For his new album, "If I Should Go Before You," Green's compositions invest even more in the electric side of things.
Though this is first displayed by a daunting, nine-minute-long opening stretch of the hazy, post-rock likes of "Woman," which is then counterweighted by the more contained, Death Cab For Cutie-esque indie rocker "Northern Blues," the main flavor found in "If I Should Go Before You" is an infusion of psychedelic/blues into City And Colour's indie folk rock sound, making the album feel synonymous with that of My Morning Jacket. Among the jam-bandy "Killing Time," the active cuts of "Wasted Love" and "Lover Come Back," and the morose self-titled song, the keyboard and leslie-effected guitar tones give "Mizzy C" more of a psychedelic vibe, and the guitar swells in "Runaway" and "Friends" push things into country territory. Even Green's only couple of offerings for acoustic-driven songs (heard in the upbeat strumming of "Map of the World" and the delicate fingerpicking of "Blood") bloom into full arrangements, but though some acoustic minimalism would've made for a nice throwback to classic City And Colour fashion, Green's bigger sights for composition still satisfy.
Lyrics — 9
Green's lyrics that made up the previous "The Hurry and the Harm" elaborated upon his feelings of lonesomeness that came with his nomad lifestyle that he originally presented in "Sometimes," making it arguably the most morose album of City And Colour's catalog. With his lyrics in "If I Should Go Before You," however, Green shows his existential climb back up. With his woeful observation of still looking for some kind of substantial solace in his life (pining "Three hundred thousand hours / Still I remain hungry for the light" in "Northern Blues"), Green longs to change his ways for better in "Mizzy C," despite the uncertainty of turning a new leaf ("If I try to change direction / I might not find what I'm looking for / But this bitter disposition / Well now must surely run its course").
Though Green still wrestles with the comfort that comes with the familiarity of his past and his old ways (he goes from ignoring his devil's advocate in "Northern Blues" to heeding its words in "Killing Time"), he ultimately trudges forward in his effort to grow, from admitting fault for disconnection in "Lover Come Back" ("How could I have been so foolish to let you leave?") and ridding of unsupportive company in "Friends" ("Here I am again / Trading in a group of friends / To hopefully make amends / With everything I've done wrong"), to accepting his history in "Map of the World" ("There is a map of the world / That lies upon my weary face / That I cannot erase").
This alleviation results in even more positive outlooks from Green, where his professing of unconditional love in "Woman" and the reincarnation-centric "If I Should Go Before You" supersede his previously plentiful sentiments of love being too susceptible to expiration, and his proclamation of grasping a sense of belonging in "Blood" ("I think we've finally found a home in this place") ends up being the long-awaited happy ending to his personal diaspora articulated in "The Hurry and the Harm."
Overall Impression — 8
City And Colour may have started out like any other side-project of a musician who wanted to entertain the small prospect of acoustic minimalism, but Green's escalating attention towards his outlet has made it grow to reach bigger expectations. "Little Hell" and "The Hurry and the Harm" may have expanded upon this in a standard fashion, but "If I Should Go Before You" is a clear testament to how much City And Colour has grown from its humble beginnings. With its more colorful and diverse aspirations proving Green's capabilities to write songs beyond the small realm of his acoustic guitar, its expansion is the step upwards that pushes City And Colour to a new level.