Arkells: Morning Report Review

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Arkells: <i>Morning Report</i> Review

Arkells are Canada’s best kept secret. The Hamilton-based rock band has been hugely successful in the Canadian market, winning four Juno Awards over the course of their career and earning gold status on their last album, High Noon, and now, with the much-anticipated release of their fourth studio album, Morning Report out on Last Gang Records/eOne, they’re ready to take the world by storm.

The five-piece band—made up of Max Kerman (vocals, guitar), Nick Dika (bass), Mike DeAngelis (guitar), Tim Oxford (drums) and Anthony Carone (keys)—has spent most of the summer at some of the biggest music festivals in the U.S., including Bonnaroo, Firefly and Lollapalooza. While the band has a small following in the States, this run of festival dates has seen their fan base reach new heights, and with a U.S. tour with Frank Turner in the fall, the hype is only just beginning.

Produced by Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes, My Morning Jacket), Tony Hoffer (Beck, M83), Brian West (Sia, Awolnation) and Gus van Go (The Stills, Wintersleep), Morning Report is a melting pot of influences, and after the first listen, it’s easy to tell. There’s no set tone to the album, with each track taking on its own life within the Arkells discography.

Among the slew of producers involved with the album, there was some familiarity: Hoffer worked with the band on High Noon, which landed at No. 1 on the Canadian iTunes chart. While High Noon ran deep with catchy choruses and dance-along tracks, Morning Report falls more on the laidback side, barely unleashing any hip-swinging numbers and rather playing up a softer side of their musicality.

Opening track “Drake’s Dad” finds the band taking a step away from their rock ‘n’ soul comfort zone and launching into a light, pop vibe that sounds like a milder version of Coldplay. Many of the tracks are driven by Carone’s keys or a soft laden click track. It’s not an unwelcome change, though. While fans are used to more energetic songs, the tracks on Morning Report focus more on playing to the listener’s emotion through lyrics rather than rhythm. Kerman’s voice has an ability to shape-shift with each record, molding itself into exactly what it needs to be to match the ambiance of the record.

On one side of the album, there are songs like “Passenger Seat” and “Come Back Home” that reflect on heartbreak and the emotional reality of losing someone, but on the opposite spectrum, songs like “Drake’s Dad” and “A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)” tell stories of late nights in Nashville and all the debauchery that comes with being young and free. Whatever the songs touch on, the lyrics are real, exploring the transition within the band from careless kids to full-fledged adults. Morning Report is by far the most honest and open Kerman has been in his songwriting, and this transparency breaks down a barrier between the songwriter and the fans, showing the raw and messy emotions that often come with growing pains.

It could be said that Morning Report isn’t for the fans, though. If it were, Arkells would have pumped out a second-rate version of High Noon and moved on. Instead, the fourth album shows the band pushing the barrier of mainstream music and aiming for a breakthrough outside of the Canadian market.