Music Review: If I Should Go Before You/City and Colour (Dine Alone Records) Alternative Rock released October 9, 2015Duration 50:59

by Janna Pelle

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but I did, and in this case it worked out for the better.

When I saw the title of the album, If I Should Go Before You, by City and Colour, I knew nothing of the band, even though they have been around since 2005 and this is their 5th studio album. I was nonetheless immediately intrigued, however, because dying before the loved ones in my life is an idea I have been thinking about a lot lately, having recently lost both my father and my lifelong friend, Patrick, one year apart from one another. I have been thus considering my own mortality with a much closer perspective.

I was also intrigued by the band’s name, City and Colour, because of my own song “City Life,” where I was body-painted into the Empire State Building for the music video (that’s my version of City and Color right there… optional “u” in “colour” since I’m from the States). So, I was a little biased… but because of all of this, had extremely high expectations.

I know I shouldn’t do this – I should listen to album tracks in order – but I just couldn’t help myself. I listened to the title track, “If I Should Go Before You,” first, and by the end of the intro of hopelessly twangy guitar strums and the first line, the song was already perfect: “If I should go before you/ When that long night comes...” Not only did this speak to me in the obvious way, but to think of death as a long dream you can’t wake up from is how I have begun to feel.

Whenever I have a dream about my Dad or Patrick, it is a new memory, a new interaction with them. They may not be in my waking life, but “We’ll meet in the ever after/Please don’t follow me into the sun,” seemed to say to me: You can’t follow me, Janna, you must continue to live your life, don’t dwell on me or yearn for me so badly that you forget to do that, and is emphasized further by the line, “I’ll be right there behind you/You will have no need to look back.” We already know what our deceased loved ones would say, what advice they would give us, what guidance they would provide. They’re still here.

The haunting refrain, “And when the night cries itself awake/Dying in the light of day/Our endless love will remain/Until we meet again” is repeated throughout the song. But one of the most striking moments is towards the end of the song, instead of resolving, the refrain stops at “Until we meet….” Silence… and then comes back to the main melody with a new variation on the lyrics, “Crying ourselves awake/Dying in the light of day/Our endless love will remain/Until we meet again.”

After a good cry and sending the song to my mom and many other friends who I felt would appreciate it, I started from the beginning of the album. I was glad I had listened to the title track first and already fallen in love, because the opening song, “Woman,” starts off too slow and ambient for my liking – I would have lost patience and maybe not have heard the gold that was to come later in the album. Once the second verse kicked in, though, the song got kind of hot – I could imagine a really awesome sex scene in an old-western film – and then started getting nostalgic about one of my favorite bands from college, Murder By Death.  I realized I did like the song, it just went on for too long without enough variation.

The second track on the album, however, “Northern Blues,” won me over all over again. The driving bass line and first lyrics got me just as easily as they did in the title track: “I’ve got too much in front of me/And not enough left behind.” The feeling of having so much further to go – whether it be on the road to success, self-acceptance, or whatever it may be, is captured so beautifully in this song – the lyrics express the feeling of how daunting it is, but the music says, “Keep going.”

Then the third song, “Mizzy C,” did it again with the first line!

“I keep recycling stories from my youth that I’ve told before/Conversations with myself have become such a bore.”

This is a difficult thing to admit, but we all do it, especially when meeting new people or networking. We all can relate to this, but only some of us actually feel bad about it.

The chorus, “If I try to change direction, I might not find what I’m looking for/But this bitter disposition/Well now must surely run its course,” brings up an interesting point that artists (or anyone, for that matter) frustrated with their careers must ask themselves this question constantly: Would I rather pursue this same path but never attain my image of “success,” or change courses altogether, but risk not finding what I’m really looking for?

Next was “If I Could Go Before You,” which I listened to again because I couldn’t help myself. Each song just kept getting better and better and I had high expectations for the rest of the album.

The rest of the songs, however, got much too Americana-rock for me. With the exception of “Wasted Love,” which has a repeating guitar riff that is mysterious and sexy and reminds me of early Maroon 5 (seriously, I could imagine Adam Levine singing this song) and the piano riff throughout “Map Of The World,” nothing really stood out.

So, it was a top-heavy album to me, but the top was so heavy that it was still overall an amazing listening experience. In general, alternative rock isn’t my go-to-favorite genre of music, and the lyrics were more resonant with me than the music itself. If you are generally a fan of the genre, however, you will love “If I Should Go Before You.” And if someone in your life has gone before you, it is a must-listen.

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