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Photo courtesy of Brook Reynolds

The departure of founding Arkells keyboardist Dan Griffin meant the Hamilton-based band’s third album High Noon would bring their biggest change in sound to date.

That transition was partially aided by Tony Hoffer, who had previously produced Beck’s Guero and M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, and whose work with the Arkells helped the band usher in a sound that’s familiar yet more experimental than ever before. The single “Come to Light” showcases Hoffer’s production style as the band breaks new ground with the use of a drum machine and synthesizer.

No Arkells album is complete without a few references to Hamilton and its surrounding area. On the track “Cynical Bastards,” singer Max Kerman name-drops Oakville and Burlington. Although it isn’t the strongest track on the album, it’s always a pleasure hearing Kerman relate to the band’s Canadian fans.

The Arkells have their greatest moments on High Noon when they make use of strings and synthesizers on such tracks as “Systematic,” which has a sound reminiscent of British funk artist Jamiroquai. The band also shows its Bruce Springsteen influence on “What Are You Holding on To?” and “Leather Jacket,” with hooks that’ll stick with you for days.

High Noon does have its weak points. On “11:11,” Kerman delivers an outrageously cheesy chorus with a generic radio-rock melody. On “Crawling Through the Window,” the band aims for a slow song similar to “I’m Not the Sun” or “Abigail,” but it’s botched by dreadful lyrics such as “What the f***’s a vacuum?”

Arkells’ ambition sometimes pays off on High Noon, but often doesn’t follow through. If they are masters of anything, it is being able to write a hook that will keep you pressing repeat over and over again.


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