Album Review: We Are The City – “Violent”

We Are The City
(Tooth & Nail Records)

We Are The City is an indie rock group from British Columbia with a sound that evokes Radiohead and Grizzly Bear but also has shades of Copeland and The Dear Hunter in its sound. That is to say, this is a style of indie rock that is much more likely to please fans of the melodic and progressive than hipsters or those who constantly refresh Pitchfork to discover the next big thing. Kudos to this Canadian group for seemingly not caring about what’s hip becauseViolent is a great American introduction to the band. In fact, Americans should probably get hip to how great the indie rock scene is in the Great White North. Bands like Said the Whale, Born Ruffians, Half Moon Run, and Tokyo Police Club, not to mention those you’re probably familiar with like Metric, Stars, and Arcade Fire, are all heads and shoulders about most of their American counterparts.

We Are The City continues that trend of Canadian excellence admirably, if not with its share of hiccups. Violent is the re-release of a 2013 album, after Tooth & Nail Records discovered the band. It’s telling that Violent is the band’s second disc. It sees a significant improvement, a sort of smoothing of the edges, of 2009’s In A Quiet World, where the rhythm section and vocalist/keyboardist Cayne McKenzie take center stage. There are a few dextrous and nimble guitar parts, but, by and large, this is an album dominated by wonderful, off-kilter melodies and progressive rhythms.  Album lead-off “Bottom of the Lake” is a highlight and a great showcase of what the band does well. The propulsive percussion moves the track forward, while Cayne’s whirling vocal and keyboard melodies are both jarring and wonderful. The biggest issue with We Are The City is its decision to be daring. While the melodies and rhythms are impressive, they lack a certain hook that could propel them further. Also, the songwriting is impressive but could use some improvement. For example, “Legs Give Out” is a great slow-burner that just sort of ends at its sonic height. It’s a song that feels like it could have been longer, but the anti-climactic ending is disappointing.

Overall, this is a winner for all parties. We Are The City is clearly on the upward trajectory of finding a unique and impressive sound, while Tooth & Nail gets to showcase a new kind of band and potentially welcome in a different kind of listener. There are a few slight missteps, but they are small and most insignificant. Violent is a beautiful album that will open up as you allow the melodies and rhythms time to grow on you.
(Nicholas Senior)

Purchase Violent here.

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