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Music refracts darkness as light. Through a kaleidoscope of lush guitars, ethereal orchestration, and heavenly delivery, City and Colour alchemically transforms life’s turbulence into waves of blissful, bold, and brilliant alternative anthems. Under this banner, singer, songwriter Dallas Green siphons serenity from stress on his sixth full-length studio album, A Pill for Loneliness (Still Records). Ultimately, these eleven tracks illuminate an entrancing and engaging emotional expanse, balancing two extremes with eloquence and energy.
“I wrote a lot of dark songs and wrapped them in the most beautiful sounds we could find,” he explains.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to create. I had to write these songs in order to get out of my own head first. If someone can listen and relate to what I’m saying, my duty as a writer is fulfilled in the best way possible.”
He regards this responsibility with the utmost reverence.
By doing so, City and Colour has resonated throughout the international independent music scene. Following the 2005 debut Sometimes, and the Double-Platinum certified Bring Me Your Love (2008) Green debuted at #1 in Canada on three consecutive releases — the Double-Platinum Little Hell (2011), the Platinum The Hurry and the Harm (2013), and Gold-certified If I Should Go Before You (2015). Notably, If I Should Go Before You also debuted at #16 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart and #5 in Australia where Green’s LP Little Hell was certified Gold.
Beyond his legacy as a co-founder of hardcore luminaries Alexisonfire where Green received Platinum-certification for all four of the band’s full-length records, he also teamed up with global icon Alecia Moore (a.k.a. P!nk) to record as folk duo You+Me. Not only did their debut rose ave. attain Platinum certification in Canada, but it also topped the Canadian chart at #1, the Australian chart at #2, and soared to #4 on the Billboard Top 200 in the USA.
While travelling the world in support of the last record, the tension of current affairs weighed heavy on Green. “We all felt worried about the world, and I started writing. Everything I came up with was sad or observational. Since I was in a murk, I wanted to try to make the music as lively as possible to contrast.”
In order to do so, he changed-up his process like never before. Rather than hole up in the studio for one finite period, Green took his time, spreading out recording over multiple sessions. Under the guidance of producer Jacquire King [Kings of Leon, Tom Waits], Green was able to give the new music space to breathe like never before, adding mellotrons, analog synths, and other dreamy textures to the palette.
“Usually, I would take two weeks, cut a record, and that’s it,” he explains. “For the new album, I had a session, walked away, did a bunch of other things, and returned a little while later. It was beneficial to have the space. There was no plan. We could find different sounds and experiment. It came from the same place of just me and an acoustic guitar at the inception, but we added so much more. It was a group effort to find the best way to present these tunes. Jacquire and I often talk deeply about life. It was our first chance to work together, and we just clicked.”
As evidence, the introductory single “Astronaut” lifts off on a dusty rumble of clean guitar and a steady beat. Green’s voice immediately captivates as he carries a divine and dynamic hook before an echoing solo.
“I always think of the relationships in my life that have been fractured because I ended up doing what I do for a living,” he admits. “I’m always gone, wandering around and singing my song, however; it weighs on my family and friends. I’m asking for one more year. I left home at 21-years-old to go play my guitar. It’s lonely, but it’s because I yearn to wander. I’m aware of how lucky I am.”
Elsewhere, “Strangers” hinges on a buoyant riff and hummable groove. It charges towards a ghostly refrain awash in reverb as he pleads, “Don’t wake me when this is over, just let me drift amidst my dreams.”
“‘Strangers’ is about how you will never truly know another human being,” he goes on. “You’ll never really understand what it’s like to be inside someone else’s brain or heart. So, we need to appreciate the differences. If we do, maybe we can live better with one another.”
From the slow burn build-up of “Living in Lightning,” which borrows its title from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, to the gorgeous last gasp of the piano-driven “Lay Me Down,” A Pill for Loneliness unlocks the catharsis hinted at by the title.
“I was watching the news and heard a story of how researchers were trying to create a pill for loneliness,” he states. “I thought it was disgusting that we live in a society where there was a need for such a pill – but then I thought it was even more disgusting that someone was marketing a thing like this to people in need. I realized music was like my pill for loneliness. It allowed me to feel like I had somebody else in my life. When I was younger, all I wanted to do was write a song that made someone feel the way I felt when I connected to a song. A Pill for Loneliness encapsulates the idea of the record and the band.”
In the end, by confronting the dark, City and Colour emerges with his brightest work yet.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done,” he leaves off. “I’m just honored to still keep making records. It’s amazing when somebody responds positively to them. There’s really nothing better.”
The debut album from Katie Pruitt, Expectations is a glowingly detailed collection of real-life stories, a courageous document of coming of age in a sometimes-unwelcoming world. With a narrative voice at turns poetic and unaffected, the Georgia-bred singer/songwriter/guitarist treads endlessly complex emotional ground: mental illness, toxic relationships, the frustration and shame of growing up gay in the Christian South. But by speaking her truth with sensitivity and grit, Pruitt ultimately arrives at a self-acceptance that’s both hard-won and happily defiant.
“I called the album Expectations because I liked that it was ironic,” says the 25-year-old artist, now based in Nashville. “This record’s really about letting go of what other people expect from you, and being free to be to just finally be yourself.”
Co-produced by Pruitt and her close friend Michael Robinson at the home studio of Rounder Records’ Gary Paczosa, Expectations gracefully showcases her captivating voice—an instrument that alternately soars and howls and softens to a near-whisper. And while the album unfolds in a guitar-fueled sound steeped in folk and country and rock-and-roll, each track stays centered on the lucid songwriting that recently landed Pruitt on a “20 Artists To Watch In 2019” from NPR.
With its luminous groove and gauzy guitar tones, the title track to Expectations embodies the album’s infinite tension between strength and vulnerability, wariness and hope. “I wrote ‘Expectations’ as I was coming out of a depression,” says Pruitt. “It’s about how your whole perspective can change if you shift your focus to what really matters, and recognize that there are people who love you and can help you if you need it—you don’t have to survive on your own.”
Elsewhere on Expectations, Pruitt delicately telegraphs the pain and confusion that come from lack of belonging. A piano-driven recollection of her adolescence, “Georgia” juxtaposes vivid memories of youthful rebellion with fearful confessions about coming out to her family (“My father would scream out in rage/He did not want a daughter whose soul wasn’t saved”). On “Normal,” Pruitt offers a bit of finely wrought storytelling, sharply narrating the times in her life when she felt most like an outsider (“Marching in line in the halls of my Catholic school/Seven Hail Marys if I copped an attitude”). But by the time Expectations reaches its penultimate track—the gorgeously lilting “Loving Her”—Pruitt has found her way to a joyful self-assurance, infusing every line with her irrepressible spirit (“If loving her’s a sin, I don’t wanna go to Heaven”).
An album informed by love in its many forms, Expectations presents a bracing portrait of self-destructive love with “Grace Has a Gun” (a hypnotic and heavy-hearted track featured on NPR’s “All Songs Considered”). “It’s about a girl I dated in college who was dealing with a very intense mental illness at the time, and about me trying to be some kind of cure for her,” Pruitt explains. On “Out of the Blue,” the album slips into a languid reverie, with Pruitt’s lyrics channeling a classic-pop romanticism (e.g., “What a lovely day for loving you”). And on “It’s Always Been You,” Expectations closes out in a moment of understated glory, the song’s gently plucked strings and wistful piano melodies magnifying its tender mood. “That one’s a love song to my girlfriend,” says Pruitt. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve experienced a genuinely healthy relationship, and I wanted to show those moments that are so mundane but beautiful, like making out on the porch or play-fighting with baguettes in the grocery store—all those normal, everyday things that feel so heightened by love.”
Throughout Expectations, Pruitt imbues her lyrics with a spellbinding specificity that comes from years of dedication to her craft. Raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, she learned to play guitar from her mother as a kid, then began writing her own material in high school. “I sort of used writing songs as an outlet to work through what I was feeling, which is why I still do it now,” says Pruitt. “It’s always been a very cathartic thing for me.” Although she studied music in college—first in Athens, Georgia, then at Belmont University in Nashville—Pruitt mostly thrived in less formal settings. “I usually skipped songwriting class to just write alone in my bedroom,” she notes.
As she set her roots down in Nashville, Pruitt connected with the lineup of local musicians who now form her live band. In recent years, she and her bandmates have taken the stage at major festivals like Pilgrimage, toured with such artists as Ruston Kelly and Donovan Woods, and joined together in creating the OurVinyl Live EP (a six-track offering released in March 2018). Also in 2018, she linked up with Gary Paczosa to record a track called “Thoughts and Prayers” (a powerful protest song that Pruitt performed at the March For Our Lives in Nashville). Eventually inking a deal with Rounder, she set to work on recording Expectations in early 2019.
In the process of bringing Expectations to life, Pruitt discovered a sense of closure that had eluded her for years. “I got to reopen some conversations with my parents, and I ended up hearing from Grace and talking things through with her,” she says. “It’s made me realize how insanely important communication is, and how we need to really listen to each other, even if we may not always agree on every point.” And as she reflects on her guiding mission as a songwriter and artist, Pruitt hopes that her music might help others overcome what often feels insurmountable. “If anyone’s feeling rejected or pushed aside, I want them to feel understood,” she says. “I want them to know that you don’t ever have to conform, or try to be whatever’s considered ‘normal.’ I want everyone to love what’s different about them, because your differences are what make you unique and wonderful and fucking rad.”