Dan Griffin has detailed Arkells’ sophomore album Michigan Left with the sonic complexity of a live performance. While recording at legendary Bathouse Studio in Kingston, Ontario, the keyboardist/producer had one apparent intention—capture the live-off-the-floor moments he’d experienced within the quintet during their 2011 tour that took them across America to SXSW, up the coast and back to Maine.
Their 2012 American release has bestowed a new audience to the clan, as well as a Juno Award for “New Band of the Year.” With ‘80s-pop lyrics like “You’re telling everyone he is your best friend/ and you’re handing out flyers/ flyers on the weekend,” delicate harmonies combined with traces of towering youth-in-revolt vocals, Michigan Left services a spontaneity we’ve not seen in a while.
Singles “Where U Goin” and “On Paper” interchange vocal performances of Max Kerman, Mike DeAngelis and Dan Griffin wailing beneath warm, enveloping sunny-day melodies. But when tracks “One Foot Out The Door,” “Whistleblower” and “Agent Zero” claim a mystic midnight darkness and subsequently leave out the cheer, the album begins to waiver. It’s the guitar-laden, pop-rhythmic beats of “Bloodlines” and “Kiss Cam” that glow in the midday afternoon for Michigan Left.
When sticking to what feels inherent in Arkells’ 10-track effort, the subtle climate of deliberate indie-pop, Michigan Left is a perfectly pleasant contribution to the genre. The “we like taking on this town” youthful tonality of Arkells is unmistakably light, breezy and ideal for the climate of a summery spring.