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Album Review: Ron Pope – Calling Off The Dogs

2 min read

Ron Pope is one of today’s biggest selling indie artists, having been in the public consciousness since 2008 after performing on MTV’s now-defunct ‘Total Request Live’.

Calling Off The Dogs, the New York-based singer-songwriter’s eleventh release, is a canvas splattered with the different shades of the breakdown of a relationship. It showcases Pope’s ability to create songs that show that nothing is black and white.

RonPope-CallingOffTheDogsFor example, the musically upbeat tracks such as Lick My Wounds (whose 1980s New Romantic influences are evident in its piercing synth hits and bass groove) and Empty Page (with its dreamy, Beatles-esque bridge) have depressing lyrics like ‘someday I’ll be free of these chains’.

However, at the other end of the album is the rocky, sneering and decadent New Friends. This track is lightened up by the bells, chimes and choir in its arrangement, as well as its themes of reconciliation and hope for the future (‘this is not forever…might change our minds’). The album’s acoustic, falsetto-driven closer Blood From A Stone is defiant in asserting that nothing can hurt the stony persona.

In between the contradictions at the start and end of the album are songs that are a bit more straight-forward. Explain evocatively depicts the numbing, sobering reality of a breakup, with its distant, disembodied drums, guitar and vocals. Silver Spoon attempts to make sense of it all, moving from a slow, bare intro to a Pink Floyd-like middle section to a light-hearted, boozy sing-along ending.

The desolate tone of the album continues on Signs (despite its sunny strings and epic choruses that are reminiscent of Coldplay’s X&Y album track Swallowed by the Sea), the soothing but chilly Off Your Feet and the resigned, melancholy Back to Bed (which features an addiction analogy). Nothing is a nihilistic polar opposite to the Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush duet Don’t Give Up. This soulful duet with Alexz Johnson, even with its beautiful harmonies and radio-friendly sound, has cutthroat lines such as ‘left me nothing’ and ‘never coming back again’.

Calling Off The Dogs is a rare album whose second half is superior to its first half. With strong melodies and performances, it is a versatile release in showcasing many of the emotions experienced following a breakup.