Sills & Smith Do It Again With Their Latest Masterpiece
On its 2011 debut album, Uncertain Vista, Sills & Smith began laying the groundwork for what would become a powerful body of work by first combining elements of rootsy Canadiana with melodic, electro-acoustic rock. Its 2012 follow-up, No Way In No Way Out, continued this troupe's musical evolution by exploring new terrain with the addition of songs in the heavy metal and progressive rock genres, while maintaining its primary focus on alternative folk-rock and acoustic balladry.
By releasing its third album in less than three years, Sills & Smith has truly reached the summit with The Glorious Ache. This is an album so self-assured in its sound and its message that it demands that the listener sit upright and pay close attention to the proceedings. Like its predecessors, The Glorious Ache was produced by the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Edwards at his Corvidae Music studio in Ontario, CA. The album's sound is rich, pristine, energetic and as good as anything produced today by a major label.
If The Glorious Ache has an overarching theme it can be summarized in three words: life is hard. Throughout the album, lyricist and chief idea generator, Frank Smith, explores the challenges of modern life by making astute, thoughtful observations that come only with true life experience. His writing is sharp, mature and compassionate. Frank and Jeremy Sills typically alternate in handling lead vocals during the songs' verses, while choruses relying on two- and three-part vocal harmonies continue to be a distinct Sills & Smith hallmark. The music is layered and intense with imaginative percussion, melodic basslines and swirling, effects-laden guitars leading the way.
The Glorious Ache features a steady stream of expertly written and arranged songs, which alternate fluidly between upbeat rockers and softer folk ballads. Stand-out tracks include the hard-charging album opener, "Hold Tight," a mythmaking electric blues number, "It's Wrecked," an epic prog-rocker, the masterful "Tornado Alley," a catchy, exhilarating ode to skydiving, "Parachute Love," along with "Living On an Island," a bleak commentary on living in the impersonal age of digital communication and social media. The mellower, folkier side of the album includes the touching tribute to the late Amanda Todd, "Amanda," as well as the lament of "Promises," the confessions of a tortured soul. Each overflows with characteristic Sill & Smith beauty.
With a sound and sensibility reminiscent of classic and contemporary mainstream acts like REM, The Moody Blues, The Decemberists and The Eagles, Sills & Smith is an emerging force on the independent artist scene that cannot be ignored. The Glorious Ache is a new milestone in this Canadian group's outstanding discography.