City and Colour’s fifth album, If I Should Go Before You (IISGBY), signifies the return of the band after its two-year musical hiatus, and is naturally accompanied by a heightened level of expectant anticipation and excitement. City and Colour has previously provided two types of songs: Indie acoustic gems like the band’s popular singles “The Girl” and “Northern Wind,” as well as more grungy indie rock hits like “Comin’ Home.” Unfortunately on this album, the group is unable to fully satisfy its potential, coming off as both frustratingly unreliable and wildly predictable.
Singer-songwriter Dallas Green’s lyrical work in IISGBY is less than stellar, and his creativity is hindered by an incessant amount of musical repetition, which, rather than making tracks sound cohesive, instead evokes a sense of déjà vu. That said, Green manages to conjure up a few poignant key moments that redeem the album from boredom and disappointment.
Aerosmith-inspired rock characterizes the first song, “Woman,” which is one of IISGBY’s saving graces. It’s a transcendent nine minute number that marries rawness and sensuality; however, this level of nuance is short lived. The album dips into four or five songs of electric-guitar-solo-laden mediocrity, and although each song has its individual—if not very subtle—distinctions, the tracks are indistinguishable from each other when listened to back-to-back.
The title track, “If I Should Go Before You,” holds its own. Green’s preoccupation with sadness manifests itself in his gorgeous falsetto and a new romantic and waltz-y vibe that departs from the rock/blues ‘love lost’ ballad theme characterizing an uncomfortable chunk of songs.
The genre of the album undergoes a nervous reversal halfway through—Green’s attempt to create a louder and more aggressive sound doesn’t effectively pair with his more classically recognized style. The second half of the record switches abruptly into an acoustic, stripped-down, and wistful sound that, while more in tune with Green’s earlier work, is a dissonant and confusing departure from the first half of the album while also being unoriginal and unremarkable.
A few other tracks are unique and aesthetically-pleasing. The album recovers from its rut in its last two numbers, “Friends” and “Blood,” which are both familiar and fresh. The songs draw on the happy medium between the indie rock and folk/country Green is known for while retaining silky new lyrics and pleasant unpredictability.These tracks are fantastic bookends for an otherwise disappointingly unfulfilled, non-cohesive album that seems to struggle to live up to its own expectations—much less listeners’.