Dallas Green has a profound understanding of his emotions and a natural talent for communicating them through music. Nothing proves that more than his solo project, City and Colour. For the last 20 years, Ontario-based artist has steadily grown his audience by consistently delivering what his fans have come to love him for—heartwrenching lyrics, sweeping soundscapes, and evocative vocals. And that remains true with his seventh studio album released under the moniker.
The Love Still Held Me Near is an intimate look at love and loss. Even its title is almost prophetic. It seems to say that even after all he’s been through, “still,” love carries him through struggle. It’s an unapologetic testament to living with grief. And it delivers everything we’ve come to appreciate and expect from City and Colour. But not much more.
Green carefully composes each of the album’s 12 tracks, layering harmonies over acoustic melodies. Conceptually, he isn’t breaking new ground, though, he doesn’t disappoint either. They’re beautiful instrumentals. But it’s his distinctive vocals that quietly assert their space in the spotlight of each song, evoking Green’s raw emotion and putting the supporting instruments in their proper place.
Green eases listeners into The Love Still Held Me Near with its quiet opener, “Meant To Be.” Released as the first single off the LP, it draws inspiration from the tragic and traumatic losses of Green’s longtime friend. And it sets the stage for the rest of the album.
The song’s soft beginning slowly swells until Green’s vocals enter the stage, postulating a long-lost potential for his future. As the music reaches its crescendo, the emotion of the music changes. There’s no hiding behind innuendo here. Green wails—”But I was missing my friend, so how do I carry on?”
Much of the rest of the album carries on in the same fashion. Lyrically, it waltzes through the stages of grief as the narrator grapples with losing his friend and the impending end of his long-time marriage. Green may be singing about some of his life’s most personal traumas, but he transforms each verse into hymns about collective struggles.
“I know the experience I’m writing about on this album is not singular at all; it’s everything we have to deal with as human beings, trying to live and get through it,” says Dallas Green in a recent press release.
He ping-pongs from acceptance of his loss to bargaining for change to railing against his pain. Like experiencing grief in the real world, the process isn’t always linear.
Green’s vocals shine on tracks like “After Disaster,” which finds his lyrics and vocals dominant over some of the album’s softest instrumentals. But it’s tracks like “Fucked It Up” and “The Water Is Coming” that find the most remarkable balance between instrumental and vocal melodies. And it’s within this balance where you’ll find the best elements of City and Colour.
With each layer, the instrumental and vocal tracks create texture within each song. As a cohesive piece, The Love Still Held Me Near is introspective and emotionally raw—polished to perfection by Green’s experienced hand. And without any departure from City and Colour’s traditional sound, there’s nothing to disappoint fans, many of whom will keep returning for more of what they love from the artist.