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High Noon - Dine Alone Music
A steady and consistent release schedule along with a healthy dose of media exposure for Hamilton, Ontario’s Arkells has meant a career rise to national recognition. But breaking from the Canadian bubble and making waves on the international scene has its challenges. If you’re going to really break into the American market for instance, you need to give listeners an album with multiple singles that they simply cannot pass up. Well, after two solid efforts that started with loose comparisons to Springsteen and the Gaslight Anthem, Arkells have finally broken from the mold and entered a stage ripe for global domination.
In fact, the Arkells’ third full length, High Noon, has all but transforming my casual appreciation into an all out love for this talented five-piece. Where most made-for-radio tunes throw everything at listeners all at once like a child screaming for its mother’s attention (i.e. Capital Cities), Arkells remain tastefully catchy and tunefully true to themselves. Even more surprisingly, the band doesn’t hesitate to draw upon icons of the past in order to entertain in the present. All the while standing shoulder to shoulder with their modern peers, the band’s appreciation of age-old pop-rock conventions is a pleasant surprise.
For starters, even with track-by-track variance, there’s no denying that Arkells are a troupe of 80’s piano-rockers at heart. (If they weren’t so eclectic in nature, Arkells could really give The Hold Steady a run for their money.) The extreme case being the swanky piano-rock of “Hey Kids,” which sounds as if it could be the collaboration of Sir Elton John and any number of rock groups from twenty years back. More typically though, Arkells’ keyboardist Anthony Carone jumps in during the chorus or intro to balance out the synth stemming from the aforementioned 80’s association. For both the clearest example and one of the album’s highest points of replay, look no further than the instant ear-grab of “11:11.” A well-balanced piano-led verse and chorus of elegant Bowie-esque keyboard sounds make for the perfect marriage of 1987 and 2007. This shadow of the 80’s and the strength of Arkells’ retro influence contrasts with, say, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” by never placing the album at risk of living in the past.
As is soon clear, High Noon absolutely brims with potential singles. And while that might raise some red flags for radio skeptics, Arkells never sacrifice what makes the band unique. For example, “Cynical Bastard” may host the epitome of a synth peppered sing along chorus, but the opener and verse take a nod from The Hold Steady’s self-referencing narrative style, with a throwback by name to their first single and album title, Jackson Square. Meanwhile “Leather Jacket” reaches another sing-along high with the chorus, “you called me up from a payphone, I said hang tight I can drive you home.” The antiquated communication system might bring to mind Maroon 5’s overplayed single, but the similarities end there. Where Maroon 5 sacrificed their heart for radio play decades ago, Arkells stand poised for mainstream recognition with their spark firmly intact. How else could a band take a chance on the funky 70’s inspired song like “Systematic” and flourish in the midst of iconic sweeping strings and Bee Gees-esque backing vocals that culminate in a chorus that would be right at home on the Rocky soundtrack.
Above all, Arkells never devolve into radio clichés; and for a collection of radio ready songs, there is nothing quite like High Noon out there. Even the accompanying acoustic rendition of “11:11” serves to reinforce the merit of this single-ready collection across multiple formats and numerous listens. Arkells are a rare breed of accessible pop-rock that doesn’t forfeit integrity when delivering a catchy tune. Few bands can release an album that demands an audience the way High Noon does. So with that I say, go forth Arkells, and unleash your unmistakable talents unto the masses. Make no mistake about it; High Noon is your next favourite album just waiting to be discovered.