Arkells first stumbled into my life on a rainy day way back in 2008. I think listened to “Deadlines” on repeat that whole first week or at least until I knew every word without even thinking. There is no doubt in my mind when I say I’ve been hooked since day one. Arkells have a way about them that makes their music so intoxicating and to be honest, there is something to be said about a band who can do that so effortlessly.
The band is finally releasing their fourth studio album, Morning Report, on August 5 via Last Gang Records. There was so much to take in when listening through this album. For one, I found that they really expanded their style by experimenting with so many things that you wouldn’t expect to hear on an Arkells album. You can tell they pulled inspiration from so many eras of music, from crazy cool synth riffs that are undeniably ’80’s to the crisp sound of trumpets, horns and saxophones, which sometimes reminded me of The Beatles Sgt. Peppers era.
Another point that really stood out for me throughout the entire album was the band’s knack for lyrical storytelling. Every single track on this album has a story attached to it which I love. Right away with the opening track, “Drake’s Dad,” you are pulled into an uplifting drum and piano mix, with powerful gospel choirs and lyrics that weave a story about mischief pursued, friendships made, that familiar feeling of being young and carefree and yes, meeting Drake‘s dad of course.
Then you dive into the banging piano and heavy beat of “Private School” that guides you through the political side of elitism and individuals who get sucked into that overpowering status façade. The overall feel of the song is fun and lighthearted as well as the story it’s telling captures just how honest this album is so perfectly.
Along with it’s lyrics and stories, the album really starts to pick up and display its expanded style at this point. “My Heart’s Always Yours” begins to showcase a perfect blend of nostalgic synthesizers as well as a poppy piano and guitar, giving the track a certain polished and bright feeling to it. It also makes for a tune that you just can’t help but smile when you hear it. When the song drifts into “Savannah,” it continues on that feeling before revealing an unexpected trumpet solo that blends in so well with everything and ties it all together.
One of my favourite tracks off the entire album, “Passenger Seat,” turns the tables completely. This song is so different in comparison to any other song on Morning Report, so much so that it clearly stands out above the rest in my eyes. Its heaviness shifts the album into an oddly dark and hauntingly beautiful place that dips into layers of 80’s inspired synths and heavy drum beats that pull you out of the air of the song prior and into the depths of something completely new. It sums up that inescapable feeling of love, loss and loneliness so well that I found the feeling resonating even after the song was over.
“Making Due” pulls the album back on track and into a light, summery mood while “Round And Round” takes a turn yet again into a simple acoustic number before building it up until the song becomes a full wall of diverse sound with layered vocals and a full on horn section.
Channeling back their classic sound, Arkells deliver a punch to the system with “Hung Up” and then again with “Come Back Home” and “A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)” all three songs contrast each other in terms of pace and feeling but it’s that familiar sound that many Arkells fans know and love, which I found brought the three together nicely.
“And Then Some” is such a lovely song and another one of my favourites from the album. The song seems to grab you by the hands and pull you into long lost memories, both heartfelt and forgotten. The layers of instruments and vocals come together and build up like a wave, until it washes over you with a refreshing sense of comfort. I love this song for that reason, it feels like home to me.
They slow it all down with final track, “Hangs The Moon” – a somber, sentimental ballad that feels almost weightless with a steady piano rhythm, hints of guitar and airy background vocals. The brief snare drum beats in the final throw of the song, adds to the overall richness of it all and draws the album to a quiet close.
Overall, I found Morning Report was a lot lighter in terms of sound and style in comparison to previous Arkells albums. It ran more along the lines of pop in some cases than their original rock & soul sound which I was so used to hearing before. However, I found that this move really shows that band is growing as a whole, plus each track checked off a list worth of firsts for the band which shows growth for the future as well. I really appreciated how the album exhibited itself in such an honest way; the lyrics were heartfelt and the music was open-minded and lighthearted, it was like meeting a whole new band but still recalling that you’ve known them your whole life.
Morning Report is available everywhere August 5. Pre-order here.