Published May 26, 2014Calgarian folk outfit Reuben and the Dark don't exactly invoke an image of jubilance, especially with their downcast name and record title, but the album quickly takes a turn into the pop realm once frontman Reuben Bullock's voice cuts through the noodling guitar and humming strings mere seconds into opening track "Bow and Arrow." The first three tracks of the album are uplifting, filled with gorgeous vocal harmonies and crisp instrumentation, with hooks aplenty and abrupt rhythmic shifts pushing the songs through to an orchestral finish.
After taking a sombre turn with trumpet-glazed standout "Shoulderblade," the album's middle section alternates between channelling later Coldplay with "Marionette" and "Can't See the Light" and crafting drab folk with "A Memory's Lament" and "The River." The flow of this section is jarring, but even the comparatively forgettable tracks highlight the band's harmonizing talents, with Bullock as talented lead vocalist. "Can't See the Light" marks a return to the pop sound of the album's beginning; it's fun, upbeat, and would work splendidly in a trailer for a coming-of-age film.
The musicianship on the album also delivers, providing a folksy backbeat with a pop sensibility, complete with banjos and acoustic guitars. However, the album ends on a weaker note: creaky instrumental track "Funeral Sky" offers a pause that nullifies any momentum created by "Can't See the Light," while final track "Black Water" abruptly fades away after crafting a strong sense of redemption through its baptism-depicting lyrics and booming drums. While the band may have wanted to end the album on a subtly uplifting note without getting too kitschy, the final track — the record's shortest — ends too soon, starting one final orchestral build-up without paying it off.
The band's identity oscillates between pop craftsmen and languid folkies, with the album at its best when they hit that sweet spot in the middle. Funeral Sky is a decent debut, but the band definitely sounds like they have potential for something greater. (Arts & Crafts)