Arkells have established themselves as one of the more ambitious younger acts in Canada today. 2008's Jackson Square and 2011's Michigan Left demonstrated both bare-bones rock and souped-up pop sensibilities, respectively. High Noon, the band's third album, is a marriage of those two approaches with largely fruitful results.
There are moments on High Noon when the emphatically brash nature of Arkells' live show is captured perfectly, including on the cinematic opener "Fake Money." Those moments, however, are only littered throughout the record; the 40-plus minutes of High Noon are less a minimalist homage to their punchy live show and more of a collection of addictive hooks amidst deeply textured tracks.
"Hey Kids!" features a radio-ready build complemented by a heavy dose of strings, but the track loses all steam during a clunky guitar solo. Though Arkells found success on their two past full-lengths with different approaches, when paired together, momentum doesn't always build naturally. "Crawling Through The Window" plods inefficiently and a blend of tacked on guitars and keys only slow the song down more.
The hooks are still plentiful, and that remains the album's most redeeming quality, particularly on "Leather Jacket," a glitzy Springsteen-esque tale and one of the few occasions the polish meets the raw in harmony. Even "Never Thought That This Would Happen" shines with an intoxicating sway, despite having more layers than necessary.
High Noon showcases Arkells' lofty ambitions, and while it might not be their defining record it's another intriguing step in their evolution. (Universal)