Dustin Bentall & the Smokes You Are an Island

Dustin Bentall & the Smokes You Are an Island
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Coming less than a year after Bentall's previous release, the Orion EP, the eight-track You Are An Island finds the BC native continuing to expand his sound beyond the by-the-books country rock of his earlier records into broader pop territory. The rustic sensibilities are still prominent, particularly in the stellar performances of fiddler Kendel Carson, now a mainstay of the band. But the punchy production by Ryan Dahle (Limblifter) puts melody ahead of everything, which in turn emphasizes how road-hardened Bentall and the Sm∅kes have become in the past few years. The album's brightest moments, "Every Chord That Rings," "Just Be My Friend," and "Shine," brim with the simple thrills that have always marked Bentall's work, from hitting the road in a vintage car, to love at its innocent early stages. However, significant growth is evident in the darker shading of the title track and "Dreaming of a Nightmare," where Carson's skills are deployed in a more Warren Ellis-like manner. Still, the main strengths of You Are An Island are Bentall's hooks, and the ease with which he straddles the line between power pop and hard country throughout shows a definite move in the right direction for him. (Aporia)