Canadian music is underrated; like seriously hopelessly underrated. Honestly close your eyes and think of five artists that come from Canada. If that was too easy, now close your eyes and think of fives artists that come from Canada who aren’t Drake or Justin Bieber.
Now that’s a bit harder, eh? The point that I’m trying to make here is that everyone has this idea in their head that Canada pops out a musical sensation a couple of times a decade, and then recedes on into itself back into the Great North. Yet that isn’t the case at all, and it’s about time that the world recognizes it. Shift your focus to an industrial city in the heart of Ontario called Hamilton; the year is 2006 and a group of students at McMaster University would form a band soon to be known as Arkells. Fast forward 10 years to the release of the band’s fourth LP, Morning Report (released August 5, 2016 via Last Gang Records). Arkells have become the crown jewel of Canadian rock music.
With their last release, 2014’s High Noon, the band of Hamilton boys started to attract some international attention. They began to get radio play on not only local Toronto stations, but also stations all over the world; they toured North America extensively and headed overseas to headline some sold out shows of their own. They also started to get slots in some of the biggest festivals in the States, including Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Lollapalooza. It appeared that the world was finally beginning to catch on to just how good this band from the great north is; it seemed that everyone had fallen in love with not only High Noon, but also Arkells entirely.
There lies a dilemma of which direction to take your next album after experiencing such huge success with your last release; do you recreate the sound that attracted such positive attention, or do you take a risk and change your sound entirely? All one can say is thank god that Arkells went with the latter, delivering everything the world didn’t know it needed with Morning Report.
Listening to the record in its entirety for the first time, it becomes obvious that there is no consistent tone for the album; it is more of a mixing pot of sounds and styles. This is a dramatic step away from the easy listening rock n’ roll that we have grown accustomed to with Arkells. Yet that is the beauty of Morning Report: Lead vocalist Max Kerman has a voice that can be shifted to the tone of any song, and it would be a shame to try to stick him into one genre. There is something about Morning Report that is just so real; on the one end, it tells a story about heartbreak with tracks like “Passenger Seat,” “Come Back Home,” and “Making Due,” On the other end of the spectrum, Arkells deliver tracks about drunk nights with friends and finding new love with “Drake’s Dad,” “And Then Some,” and “A Little Rain (A Song For Pete).” It’s as if you opened up Kerman’s diary and read it from cover to cover, encountering a different snippet of his life with every song. These songs are honest and raw, and with the record Kerman shares the most vulnerable parts of himself with everyone who listens.
What is most wonderful about this album is that every track has its own story to tell. Each song is so different from the one that came before and the one that follows. If you look at the first single “Private School,” you are driven into a world of posh parties and a regular guy’s internal battle with it all. Kerman is torn between wanting to dive into the world of the rich and snooty, but at the same time he knows that this is not who he is. The track is the perfect mix of a carefree and vulgar attitude towards the entire situation, driven by a jazzy piano riff and tied all together by Kerman’s mellifluous vocals. It’s a bold choice for the first single, being quite unlike anything Arkells have released before, but it was a brilliant choice at that.
Watch: “Private School” – Arkells
While the first two singles “Private School” and “Drake’s Dad” are impressive tracks to say the least, they cannot help but be blown out of the water by the more emotionally charged tracks on the album. The third single “Making Due” is the kind of song that you stop and listen to on repeat for a couple of times over, because once is never enough. Emotionally charged and beautifully written, the song is stunning in every way – from the 80’s vibes and hits on the electric keyboards, to the way in which Kerman’s perfectly imperfect vocals tie the track together.
Of course, the singles are standout tracks; that’s what they are supposed to be, but the excellence of the individual songs does not stop there. One could go on all day about why every single track on this album is a favourite-worthy track on the album; how “And Then Some” is the perfect ode to love, or how “Passenger Seat” has the power to make anyone feel the raw emotion that comes with heartbreak, or even how the harmonies and guitar riffs in “Hung Up” are enough to make anyone want to dance like they are in a remake of Footloose.
Listen: “Making Due” – Arkells
The wonderful thing about Morning Report is that the beauty of it lies within every single track; it’s written into every single line, and executed with every key on the piano, strum on the guitar, and hit on the drums. With Morning Report, Arkells remind us that music should never stay stagnant, that it is only natural that it grows along with the artist. Most importantly, Arkells remind us all that life is messy, and that love comes and love goes. There will be times when you cry on the way home, but there will also be times that you get drunk with your best friends – and somehow, between it all, you will manage to stumble upon the best times of your life without even knowing it. Morning Report is an ode to living life and a reminder that no matter how much it pours, a little rain will never bring you down.
Morning Report – Arkells
:: ARKELLS 2016 & 2017 Tour Dates ::
10/18 – Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel^
10/20 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
10/27 – Athens, GA @ The Georgia Theatre*
10/28 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater*
10/29 – Morgantown, WV @ Mainstage*
10/30 – Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa*
10/31 – Wilmington, DE @ World Café Live @ The Queen*
11/02 – Albany, NY @ Upstate Concert Theater*
11/03 – Ithaca, NY @ The Haunt*
11/04 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall# – SOLD OUT
11/05 – Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall# – SOLD OUT
11/11 – Detroit, MI @ Magic Bag
11/12 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
11/13 – St Paul, MN @ Turf Club
11/23 – Hamburg, GER @ Molotow
11/24 – Berlin, GER @ PBHF Club
11/26 – Munich, GER @ Strom
11/27 – Cologne, GER @ Luxor
11/29 – London, UK @ Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
11/30 – Manchester, UK @ Gullivers
12/02 – Glasgow, UK @ Broadcast
12/09 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom – SOLD OUT
12/10 – Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom – SOLD OUT
12/17 – St. Louis, MO @ Blueberry Hill – SOLD OUT
12/18 – Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley
1/19 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore*
1/20 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore*
1/21 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogarts*
1/22 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues*
1/23 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues*
1/25 – Denver, CO @ The Fillmore*
1/27 – Phoenix, AZ @ Live Wire*
1/28 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern*
1/29 – San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield*
2/01 – Vancouver, BC @ Thunderbird Sports Centre#
2/03 – Edmonton, AB @ Shaw Conference Centre#
2/04 – Calgary, AB @ BMO Centre#
2/06 – Saskatoon, SK @ Prairieland Park#
2/07 – Winnipeg, MB @ Centennial Concert Hall#
2/10 – Hamilton, ON @ First Ontario Centre#
2/11 – Montreal, QC @ Metropolis#
2/13 – Ottawa, ON @ TD Place Arena#
2/14 – Moncton, NB @ The Centre at Casino New Brunswick#
2/15 – Halifax, NS @ Scotiabank Centre#
2/17 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre*
2/18 – Boston, MA @ Agganis Arena*