It's felt like more than a few Octobers since City & Colour's last album If I Should Go Before You rang a clear and honest warning to never take what you presently have for granted. Fame, fortune, love, life.. all these things are but a brief candle on the vast and unexpected road of life. Whereas his previous work solemnly reminded us of this (not without a light hearted encouragement in songs like Runaway as well), A Pill for Loneliness finds Dallas amidst the stars of discovery.
The record steps through the threshold of silence into opening track Living in Lightning, an ode to a past riddled with burden and a resounding weariness caused by pain. Dallas has always been hyper sensitive to the pains of life, offering listeners what sounds and feels like an extended arm in times of trouble, but in the form of music. The track digresses from classic, melancholiac defiance into a chorus serving as somewhat of an apology for not fitting into the narrow molds of others expectations. He beckons to let go of things weighing you down that no longer serve you, and to realize the freedom of being lost. I believe this theme sets the tone well for the following album.
Speaking of discovery, Astronaut breathes new life into the realization that we are lost, but as always, Dallas ensures us this is a perfectly natural and even desired human condition. The uncertainty of our environment is a reminder to all whom traverse this void that we are alive and well. Even in the blackest, coldest of space, we are not captives of fear or claustrophobia, but journeymen (and women) in a sea of what Dallas describes as "poison and silver" To me, this line says that there are both hazards and riches in life, but that is part of living or "That's home".
Following tracks "Imagination" and "Difficult Love" are songs that took a while to grow on me. The repetitive beat of "Imagination" at first wore me down, but I was later quite enthralled with the 2nd verse lyrics in particular "Emotional like an avalanche of joy. It melts my nerves, this beautiful noise" The prosody used after the "avalanche" line in the synth was so clever and when I finally discarded my initial reaction, I realized how well the drum beat built into the smooth resolve of the choruses, ever so patiently landing listeners right into the "dancing days" Dallas gallantly referred to. "Difficult Love"'s somewhat cliche melody soon gave way to the beautiful nostalgia it conveys about "young and fearless" days now giving way to bitter work and the protagonists attempts to heal a loved one from sickness of mind or body. An instant sensation of relief swept in on the soft interlude "Me and the Moonlight", serving as a much needed meditative experience after some apparent duress.
The duress or "madness" rolls on in the heavy and ambient sixth track "Mountain of Madness" The song speaks on the grind of personal struggle and how at times it may seem like it will never end. Yet their is an air of hope and finiteness to it all in proceeding track "Song of Unrest", serving as a welcomed reminder that all things (good and bad) must come to an end, but that we must try and express the negativity however possible in the moment. Circumstance (especially negative ones) has a way of allowing us moments to rise up to adversity and learn from our experiences in a positive light. It's what makes up the fabric of our character.
"Strangers" was another tune that took me from the previous single reviews until now to fully appreciate in it's own way. I suppose I was looking to lump it in with the storyboard that the rest of the album creates, but it stands alone and refuses to be pigeon-holed. It's reminiscent of some of Green's early stuff procured by his hardcore facet Alexisonfire, and speaks of a universal isolation that inherently binds us all together.
The record treads on into "War Years" which literally feels like "zero gravity". The words reinforce the emotions provoked by the warbly, flanged guitar and driving drums with a foundational question inquiring "Will we survive the war years?" This question seems dire enough, but remains unanswered throughout, only emphasizing the almost cloud-like, floaty feeling achieved fluidly with this number. As if shouting for salvation, "Young Lovers" returns triumphantly with what feels like a gust of the album's second wind, filling up the sails and giving it just enough momentum to carry us home.
Now worn and weary from what is depicted as a lifetime of rivers and weather, "Lay Me Down" does just that and puts the record to bed. It's sweet, parlor piano is missing all the right frequencies here to paint an aged struggle that one has now chosen to ultimately surrender to. The strings and timpani in between verses is when it really struck me, as if looking back on foreshadowing with newfound knowledge, that I was indeed listening to Dallas Green's musical masterpiece. I hope it provides him with as much consolation to play his songs as it does for me to listen to them.