With his newest solo album under the moniker of City and Colour, former Alexisonfire singer/guitarist Dallas Green seems to finally have a record that may allow him to garner more widespread recognition as part of this contingent of folk-inspired pop-rock acts—led by the likes of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers—that seem to be everywhere these days.
The album in question, The Hurry and The Harm, delivers a notable, although not terribly surprising, shift in sound for Green. A far cry from his debut album Sometimes, which just consisted of him playing acoustic guitar and piano and singing, nearly every track on The Hurry and The Harm includes some sort of additional background instrumentation. In fact, almost all of them feature a full band arrangement with backing bass and drums, and a couple of them include keyboards and synthesizers, something Green started experimenting with on his last album, 2011’s Little Hell. One song here even features an electric guitar, if you can believe it.
However, the title track that opens the album sounds much more like classic City and Colour in terms of its arrangement and melodies, with just a few moody keyboards and a simple drum beat that set it apart from his earliest work. After that, though, his songwriting changes considerably, and it’s incredibly noticeable on the very next track, “Harder Than Stone,” which begins with an acoustic guitar line that certainly wouldn’t sound out of place on popular radio. But it’s when the drums and bass come in and the song reaches its big chorus that it becomes obvious Green has officially transitioned from writing moody acoustic songs to writing catchy, melody-driven pop-rock songs that just happen to feature an acoustic guitar.
This new approach to songwriting works well for Green, who has clearly matured as an artist since he first started flying solo. Many of these songs feature great hooks that lead into incredibly catchy choruses, such as the aforementioned “Harder Than Stone,” the radio-ready “The Lonely Life,” “Paradise” and the early single “Thirst,” which is the biggest departure from the City and Colour we know and love. “Thirst” is a groovy, building rock song based around a fuzzy, distorted bass guitar and pounding drums.
But what really shows his growth is his ability to integrate all of the extra instruments and musicians at his disposal to expand upon the general idea of each song and give each one its own unique mood and atmosphere, rather than just having them there as something of an afterthought to simply supplement the guitar. On The Hurry and The Harm, everything feels much more carefully crafted and well-thought-out than on some of his previous releases, so that every instrument has a very specific, and important, reason for being included.
When it comes to lyrics, Green sticks primarily to writing about the weighty, serious subjects that have been commonplace in his songs for nearly a decade now. This particular album seems to address the seemingly never-ending human desire to always be looking for something more than what we currently have in our lives, searching in order to escape those things “eating away at [our] brains.” Just look at the chorus to “Of Space and Time,” where Green sings “I’m roaming the hills all alone/I’m trying to find my direction home.”
But it is perhaps the sixth track, “Commentators,” where Green best summarizes the intent of the album, as well as his own personal search, by explaining it all in the simplest of terms. The song, which criticizes all of the critics of the world (professional and amateur), features an infectious, almost Shins-like chorus, in which he sings, “I don’t wanna be revolutionary/No, I’m just looking for the sweetest melody.” And while this certainly reads as something of a mission statement for what he wants to accomplish with the album as a whole, it also ties back into his common lyrical theme of searching for something, because at the end of the day, isn’t it just the simplest and most enjoyable things that we all want? Thankfully, Dallas Green seems more than willing to share them with us on The Hurry and The Harm.