Kyle Edward Connolly Channels Country-Rock Swagger with 'On Arrival'

BY Myles TiessenPublished Feb 24, 2021

Maybe it started with Uncle Tupelo, perhaps it was the Byrds — hell, it's probably always been this way — but alternative musicians find a great deal of solace in country music. It's an emotionally intelligent genre filled with self-deprecation and hard truths. Kyle Edward Connolly — the Toronto scenester known for his work with WISH, Beliefs and Orville Peck — is definitely not the first to blend indie rock and country music, but he may just be one of the best. With unique production and groovy melodies, On Arrival doesn't appropriate any traditional approach to country music, nor does it feel inherently contemporary. The album settles somewhere in between, capturing a timeless quality reminiscent of George Harrison or Gram Parsons.

On Arrival is Connolly's personal reflection on a specific time in his life. The lyrics on each track often deal with personal issues of confusion and self-loathing, while the instrumentation often feels celebratory, and the juxtaposition greatly benefits the hazy, sun-soaked songs. It's that perfect blend of jubilance and sorrow that gives On Arrival a smooth flow and cohesive presentation. 

The album opens with the standout track "Get Me Tomorrow." Channeling the same country-rock swagger of David Berman, Connolly side-steps and riffs his way through catchy melodies and vulnerability. "Could it be disillusion that's doin' me in like it is today / But I've heard the city's a hard place to be if you can't find your own way," he sings, with a laid-back, c'est la vie approach. 

On Arrival features two instrumental breaks, which work in tandem to showcase Connolly's musical intentions. The first is "Passing Me By," an honest-to-God barn-burner that could get any honky-tonk crowd up and on their feet. The second, "Coming Through," is a groovy slacker hit featuring synths, minimalist bass lines and an off-kilter drumming pattern. Though the two tracks couldn't be any more different, they don't feel out of place and get seamlessly incorporated into the album.

As On Arrival progresses, tinges of psychedelia appear, looser song structures form, and Connolly embraces his stream-of-consciousness lyrical style. On "Drifting Away," Connolly sings, "And here it comes, headed up now / Headed right for the beginning / And I could see it all so, so clear / Now you really had a hold on me." Connolly lets his lyrics slip out without hesitation, demonstrating a remarkable sense of self-assuredness for a debut record.

Connolly may have some notable musical connections, but he doesn't rely on those to inform his own musical ventures. On Arrival is authentically unique in style and is the sound of an ambitious, talented artist doing exactly what they want.
(Hand Drawn Dracula)

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