Cola Add Denser, More Vibrant Hues to The Gloss But Can’t Capture the Full Palette

The Montreal trio’s second LP feels as though you’re basking in the glorious dayglow of perfect morning sunshine, but the sounds and stories don’t always stick with you.

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Cola Add Denser, More Vibrant Hues to The Gloss But Can’t Capture the Full Palette

The second album from Montreal’s Cola is one of a much brighter disposition. Having disbanded art rock project Ought, vocalist Tim Darcy and bassist Ben Stidworthy released their debut album, Deep In View, as Cola in 2021 with the addition of Evan Cartwright on drums. What emerged from this new era of artistic endeavor from the trio was a mixture of new wave and post-punk sounds. Within sparse arrangements, they crafted out a niche, as they leaned heavily towards the more melodic side of the recent post-punk boom. Their debut had more of a neutral emotional palette, which is in sharp contrast to their new album The Gloss, in which they’ve managed to create denser and much more vibrant compositions.

The most immediately striking difference is the sense of warmth you feel across The Gloss, where it feels as though you’re basking in the glorious dayglow of perfect morning sunshine. Its presence is felt from the jump on opener “Tracing Hallmarks,” where the guitars become more and more buoyant as the track goes on. Every inch of this album enthuses brighter days, from the gentle flutters of flute on “Pallor Tricks” to the meditative quiet that sets the tone of “Nice Try”. From the beginning of Cola’s existence, Cartwright’s drumming has been one of their greatest attributes. On Deep In View, it was essential in creating the vastness felt in their minimal style. This time around, it truly feels like the lifeblood of the tracks, opening the door for Darcy and Stidworthy’s parts to come to life. There are little flourishes, such as the footprint-like taps on “Keys Down If You Stay,” which help bring a greater sense of life to The Gloss than the band have achieved previously.

A lot of these songs feel much more compact than what we’re used to hearing from Cola, which has helped elevate Darcys’ vocals—as they could often get lost in the mix on Deep In The View. You can tell he’s having a lot more fun with his voice on The Gloss, with more playful moments on songs such as “Tracing Hallmarks.” Throughout “Keys Down If You Stay,” you can really feel the potential sense of loss Darcy could endure if this person manages to slip out of his life. But even with all of the improvements that Cola have made in their sound, there are still some reservations that persist from their debut on The Gloss.

Whilst their emphasis on melody makes for some beautifully intricate and angular guitar riffs, there’s a sense that these songs aren’t much more than background music—the kind that you can happily listen to and enjoy. But beyond that, there aren’t many memorable moments that will stick with you. The Gloss is pleasant but lacks a certain sense of impact—a hook you’ll have in your head all day, or a lyric that you can really connect with. The album will reward listeners on repeat listens with short, snappy lyrical trails, but this underlines the fact that on the surface, Darcy’s lyricism struggles to hold your attention.

There are certain songs, such as “Bell Wheel,” “Bitter Melon” and “Reprise,” which feel as though they could arbitrarily belong to any post-punk band in any part of the world. Sometimes, you can struggle to decide where to spend your attention. Should I be listening to the swelling instrumentals, which are clearly building to something, or should I be listening to every detail of Darcys’ narrative? The juxtaposition only adds to the feeling of having little to attach yourself to. There are moments during the aforementioned “Bell Wheel” where Darcy’s vocals sound like they’re drowning in a tidal wave.

There’s no doubt that when Cola click together, they’re capable of creating a beautiful sense of harmony. “Nice Try” is one of the moments where everything is balanced perfectly, as riffs squirm and overlap in a delicate dance before your eyes, with Darcy’s voice feeling like a natural extension of the peaceful ruminations felt throughout the track. The Gloss is full of pretty moments and good one-liners, but the record lacks any key sense of memorability.

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