Published Feb 11, 2014Since his arrival at the tail end of rock's revival in the early-2000s, Sam Roberts has been a polarizing figure in the Canadian music scene. It's odd, given that his musical output has never been particularly political (unless you count his shout out to socialism in "Canadian Dream") or in any way abrasive (this is a guy whose music is regularly played at hockey games). Still, from 2006's Chemical City on, Roberts and his music have remained somewhat cringe-worthy to critics, despite retaining the fan base he inadvertently identified in "Where Have All the Good People Gone?"
For his fifth studio album — and second under the moniker the Sam Roberts Band — he's throwing that all out the window. Teaming up with founding Killing Joke member/producer Martin Glover (a.k.a. Youth), as well as legendary album mixer Dave Bascombe (Tears for Fears' Songs from the Big Chair), Lo-Fantasy finds Roberts shifting his FM radio-evoking tunes to the dance floor and creating a heady, wine-soaked mix in the process.
Starting out with the disco-fied grooves of "Shapeshifters," Roberts' trademark arena-ready choruses and anthemic growls are filtered through the textures of '90s-era festival rock, evoking, by turns, Primal Scream's worn-out acid house boogie ("We're All In This Together"), dub-y club odysseys (the Clash-inspired "Angola") and stadium-sized pop rock ("Kid Icarus").
The album's deluxe edition contains a myriad of remixes from Youth, creative partner Eddie Banda and Primal Scream technician Andrew Weatherall, who created a downtempo mix perfect for those who prefer their listening experiences with a fat spliff in hand.
And while throwaways like album closer "Golden Hour" and "Never Enough" do little to quiet detractors who have dismissed him as nothing more than a CanCon pretty boy, those willing to get past their preconceived notions may be surprised to find that Lo-Fantasy is perhaps the most dynamic recording of Roberts career.
Read an interview with Sam Roberts here. (Universal)