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Album Review: Arkells – Morning Report

3 min read

Arkells. An alternative rock band Canada has been keeping mainly to themselves for too long. Formed in Hamilton, Ontario at McMaster University where all five original members were studying, the band’s unique name derived from the street near their University where they lived and jammed together. Morning Report would be their fourth album release (and first under a U.S label, with the sturdy amount of four producers, Joe Chiccarelli, Tony Hoffer, Brian West and Gus Van Go), coming at the right time after extensive touring and festival appearances (Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Firefly, just to name a few), and the title, would seem to be somewhat of an homage to the “funny characters” and “the stuff they get up to” lead singer Max Kerman has encountered in his life and the stories he and the band has heard and witnessed, hence, the Morning Report.

Arkells - Morning Report 2016With it being described by Kerman as “the weirdest, funniest, saddest and most honest record yet” you would expect as much. Fortunately, it fully delivers, with name checks of people they obviously know personally and little side jokes you would think would alienate a listener, but it instead inspires listeners to draw parallels to their own lives and feel as if the people in these stories are people they would know in their own. Songs like A Little Rain (A Song For Pete) about an older man who has seen important moments in history take place and has obviously great stories and life advice to give, has that Don’t Worry, Be Happy vibe to it with a jazzy, bluesy, head bopping, foot tapping, beat, and melody.

When describing the songwriting, recording process of Morning Report, Kerman has said that unlike past albums they wanted to approach this one with what he would call a “gut-check”. So instead of “over-rehearsing” and overthinking it, just keeping it “fresh, instinctive and creative” by asking themselves the important questions and sidelining the rest. Those questions were, “Does the song have a chord melody that is pleasing?” and, “Does the song have lyrics that mean something?”, and if that passes then rehearsing a bit and recording. Keeping it authentic. Getting so close to a recording by over-rehearsing can sometimes create an inauthenticity that no artist would want. If authenticity is what the aim was, mission accomplished, the intimacy of such songs as Savannah with its acoustic plucking of the guitar and lilting melody to And Then Some, probably the most intimate and emotional song of the album, lyrically and musically, with lyric like “When you dream, do I make the screen?” and “I adore you because you don’t care where I came from.” is enough to give you butterflies in your stomach, probably even if you had never experienced love before. The first verse of that song is so intimate, so visual, it creates that, ‘it’s just you and me in the world now’ feeling. “Found an empty room/Locked the door shut/Party raged on/You could only hear the bass thump.”

Morning Report comes across as a live stream documentary not only of the life of one person but the life of the people who are a part of it or have surrounded or passed by it, in any sense of meaning, with no addition too little. After all, life would be a little boring and not half as interesting without human connection so writing and creating an album that is essentially in reference to that has given way to one of the most personal yet accessible albums Arkells has managed to bring to life. Morning Report is proof that everyone has a story, and in part, that’s what interconnects us.