Album Review: City and Colour - 'A Pill For Loneliness'

City and Colour - Renee Rodenkirchen.jpg

After spending nearly two decades in the music industry, it is pretty much expected for a person to experience the reverie of reflection, and the contemplation of how much left they have within them. In City and Colour’s first release since 2015’s stunning album, If I Should Go Before You, we find Dallas Green going through the motions.

With the aptly named title A Pill for Loneliness, Green looks inward at the conflict from living an erratic life separated from his loved ones; and outward, observing the cruelty our planet is suffering at the hands of our kin. In typical City and Colour style the wealth of instrumentation is vast, yet simple, and an effervescent guitar tone holds everything together. The subtle brooding darkness that appeared in If I Should Go Before is nowhere to be seen. Instead, amidst the contemplation of existence in A Pill for Loneliness is an underlying tone of optimism. Green is looking ahead at the expanse, reflecting on the life he has led, and what that now means for the path which lays in wait for the rest of his days. 

‘Living in Lightning’ explores a restlessness that can only be found in walking through a life that has seen multitudes of things that many of us will never, but as Green says it best: “this life was mine to choose”. It is this acceptance and understanding which evokes a kind of softness out of the occasionally blunt wording which he uses. ‘Difficult Love’ and ‘Me and the Moonlight’ summarise this undoubtedly – reaching a crossroads and being patient enough to see the bigger picture – by having the will to try and make it work. The latter finds Green’s voice becoming a ghostly apparition, which contradictorily exudes warmth in summing up those moments where you can’t stand to be left alone with parts of yourself, but finding solace in the peaceful distractions of the universe, or any other thing that takes your mind off of your current situation.

‘Mountain of Madness’ is reflective of the eponymous single from City and Colour’s last album. Lyrically it captures a distinct despair in condemning the state of humanity and all of its describable faults in less than five minutes: “I’m tired of this mountain of madness / it’s a long way down to the hard ground / please forgive me for asking but there must be a better way around.” Similarly themed is the deeply contemplative ‘Song of Unrest’ – “our bones are searching for something else / tired of the flesh that they see / I never thought that I’d grow up to be another face in a crowd / on the wrong side of history.”

As you progress through A Pill for Loneliness there is an increasing amount of dread that befalls you. Green’s lyricism is ever poignant which is suitably aided by the flexibility in instrumentation that fleets between dream-like and contemplative; sombre and ominous; reverie and distant. ‘Young Lovers’ is evocative in its descriptions of gathering “for a feast of praise to the devouring mouth of war”, and ‘Strangers’ poetically describes the search of something more: “we look to the heavens above for advice on our lives / searching for god and the bottoms of bottles / in strangers’ eyes we’re living in desperation / drowning in medication.” By the time Green closes with ‘Lay Me Down’ it is clear that he is worn, exhausted by the undercurrent of an already relentless existence. As always, City and Colour have released a masterpiece into the world. This time exploring situations that are become increasingly important to focus on trying to tackle.

Words by Tyler Damara Kelly