Canadian outfit The Arkells have been indie-rocking their way into our hearts since 2008 with driving hits like “Oh! The Boss is Coming,” “On Paper,” “Leather Jacket,” and “11:11,” just to name a few of their catchier titles, all of which make great singing practice at karaoke, by the way.
Now, with the release of their fourth studio album Morning Report this past August, they’ve continued a fine tradition of releasing sweet alt-rock goodness, songs that are both passionate and fun, both true to the band and a delight for their fans. Much like the Arkells’ last outing (High Noon), Morning Report is a rare instance of an album with content perfect for both dedicated rockers and for prime rock radio playback. It is the kind of album we hope to produce in our own recording studio now that we have added an espresso machine and boosted productivity considerably.
The vinyl record sounds crisp and clean, but not TOO perfect, retaining that beloved indie quality and carrying the energy and emotion of the album. Morning Report starts out with one of its highest notes, Drake’s Dad, a fun gospel-influenced tune which combines a fun tale of the band’s drunken revelry with a hopeful, soul driven chorus. The song, like most of the album, casually demonstrates the bands’ command of musical know-how while keeping the tone light, fun, and irresistibly catchy. From there, we launch directly into the darker “Private School,” a unique choice for a single, but one which fits well in the overall tone of the album; the listener will find themselves singing along to “Private School” before they’ve even realized they like it.
The third track, “My Heart’s Always Yours,” stands out with a satisfying full sound that makes full use of each instrument and band member. It is here that the album plays its hand, employing some 80s style synth melodies and effects to capitalize on the recent trend of synthesizers in popular music. Thankfully, the synth is not too heavy-handed, used effectively but in moderation so as not to be the central focus of the song. Then “Savannah” finishes off the album’s first act with a song about a girl, which at first seems a bit mundane, but builds tonally through complex musical layers to a satisfying final chorus.
The middle part of the album jumps around a bit more. “Passenger Seat” is emotional and jarring, with a subtle echo that sounds incredible on vinyl. On the flip side, “Making Due” is light, airy, and a bit forgettable. “Round and Round” is a bit of an earworm, but surprisingly deep both melodically and lyrically, and is to me a highlight of the album bookended by the two weakest songs. “Hung Up” is not bad at all, fun to listen to, but comes across as a bit jumbled, an odd mixture of several different sounds forced together.
The final third of the album is nearly as strong as the first, beginning with “Come Back Home,” which is successful in its simplicity, one of the most emotionally honest and genuine sounds the band has produced (and that’s saying a lot). This is followed by “A Little Rain (A Song For Pete),” an upbeat anthem which capitalizes on the raw shouting vocals, upbeat piano riffs, and classic rock beat that the band made their name with. Morning Report’s final two songs wind down, and will at first disappoint those who wanted more upbeat pop in the vein of High Noon, but ultimately are both excellent. “And Then Some” is incredibly layered, and “Hangs the Moon” is soft, beautiful, and delicate in a way that the Arkells have not achieved before now.
Ultimately, any alt-rock or indie-rock fan owes it to themselves to pick up Morning Report on vinyl, and to check out the previous work of the Arkells if they haven’t heard it already.