Published Aug 03, 2016Since the release of Jackson Square in 2008, Arkells have steadily moved away from the rock'n'soul of their debut in search of more pop-friendly sounds. That isn't to say the change hasn't served them well; the band's most commercial effort to date, High Noon, earned them a gold certification in Canada on the strength of popular live set staples "Leather Jacket," "Come to Light" and "11:11."
Morning Report, the band's fourth record, plays by this book for a large portion of the listen, dishing out incredibly tuneful pop rock that's heavy on the hooks. "A Little Rain" stands as the best of the bunch, as far as radio-ready material goes, with its infectious chorus section harmonies, while "Making Due," "My Heart's Always Yours" and "Savannah" don't hide their pop sensibilities; the latter two in particular fill the quota for catchy, relationship-centric lyricism listeners have become all too familiar with.
The moments in which Morning Report breaks away from these musical and lyrical tropes lead the record to its highest highs. The gospel glory of "Drake's Dad" and confident strut of "Private School" are successful explorations, while the plaintive acoustic guitar of "Round and Round" soon blossoms into layers of strings, synths and even a horn section. The strings play a prominent role on "Passenger Seat" before getting pared back for short closer "Hangs the Moon," but both give frontman Max Kerman's emotional lyrics some welcome new soundscapes to sit amongst.
Opting to work with four different producers led the band to a wide variety of sounds on Morning Report, and while that will be a sticking point for some listeners, the record shows they're far from content in solely making plays towards accessibility. (Universal)