Millennial Masterpieces #18: City and Colour – [Sometimes]

Welcome to Millennial Masterpieces, where I’ll look back at a great album released within the past 17 years and see what its legacy is. Eighteenth in the series is Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green‘s first solo outing as City and Colour, Sometimes.

 

Released: November 1, 2005 

The mandatory solo project typically surfaces a few years into a band’s career. That’s when the fever takes hold and the band member wants to spread their wings and “experiment”. If it blows up, it usually spells the end of the original band. City and Colour blew up almost right away- not only did Dallas Green amass a huge cult following  in the first year, but radio success came less than 12 months later. Yet the fallout was a little delayed when it came to balancing Alexisonfire and City and Colour; for six years Green managed to bounce back and forth ably between the two projects before the alternating schedule proved to be too much to handle.

It’s easy to see why City and Colour took off; it’s really a simple economical situation. The post hardcore Alexisonfire had a rabid fanbase, but they also had a built-in potential fanbase in those who loved Green’s voice but were not too fond of George Pettit‘s visceral screams. Remove those from the equation and you’ve got a perfectly mass marketable product. So although Alexisonfire had the punk scene enthralled, City and Colour actually managed to break through into the mainstream first.

Sometimes is almost entirely based on acoustic guitars. There are a few string arrangements, and some piano and electric guitar occasionally pop up as well, but for the most part it’s just one reverbed guitar and Green’s breathy tenor. There’s none of the percussion, full electric chords and organ he’d gradually add to the mix as the years went on he’d travel further and further down the folk road. Here’s where it gets interesting.

Sonically speaking this album was the polar opposite of Alexisonfire, but stylistically it was essentially a stripped down version of the band. There are elements of folk, but this is largely just Alexisonfire Unplugged. Green would in fact redo some of his first band’s material on a 2012 EP….and it sounded exactly like City and Colour.

Turning the tables would result in a similar situation; beefing up the tracks on Sometimes would no doubt create some epic Alexisonfire tunes. The same can’t be said for any subsequent releases, even though they are technically sonically closer. This is precisely why Sometimes worked. It was a transition, a gateway to full folk. If Green had burst out of the gate with the Black Keys-ish  song”Fragile Bird”, he wouldn’t have gotten nearly as big.

Dallas Green’s perpetually lonesome image would veer into parody territory after four albums, but here he just sounds so incredibly sad. He’s waxing tragic from start to finish, which could get tiring if it were not for his lilting melodies. Green knows the exact combination of minor-key notes to evoke his scenes of solitude, so even when the songs are sparse (“Day Old Hate”) or repetitive (“Casey’s Song”). He’s got a magic formula! Whether the song sounds bright and clean like “Save You Scissors”, or contemplative like “Coming Home”, Green’s got a distinct repertoire that he employs perfectly.

As far as City and Colour albums go, Sometimes comes second to Bring Me Your Love, when Green found the perfect balance between emo and folk, but this series of melancholy lullabies still deserves to be lauded for the unique way it shuffled into the spotlight.

Top Three Tracks: “Hello, I’m in Delaware“, “Casey’s Song“, “Day Old Hate

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