March 25, 2019 The Strumbellas – Rattlesnake (Album Review)
One of the emerging flag bearers of the relatively new sub-genre of Alternative Country known as Pastoral Pop are The Strumbellas, whose penchant for sunny, melodic, chant-laden, singalong songs is unwavering. Now they are set to return with their fourth overall full-length album, Rattlesnake, on Friday, March 29th.
Formed in in 2008, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, The Strumbellas are Simon Ward (vocals, guitar), David Ritter (vocals, keyboards), Jon Hembrey (lead guitar), Isabel Ritchie (violin), Darryl James (bass), and Jeremy Drury (drums). The sextet have three studio albums in their hats: the more tempo-aggressive, Bluegrass/Alternative Country sound of 2012’s My Father and The Hunter; the conspicuously electrified We Still Move on Dance Floors of 2013; and the more textured and lyrically developed Hope. Now, six years after their last offering, The Strumbellas are ready to unleash their fourth oeuvre, titled Rattlesnake.
Scheduled for release through Glassnote Records, nine songs in total, Rattlesnake simply continues what The Strumbellas had strewn and woven in its predecessor. Their glowing sound and positive proclamations are as bright and cheerful as ever. It opens straightaway with the engaging stomping beat and infectious chants of “Salvation,” once again catapulting the band into the pantheon populated by their fellow Pastoral Pop purveyors like Mumford & Sons (“Hopeless Wanderer”), Fleet Foxes (“Ragged Wood”), Walk Off the Earth (“Rule the World”), Bastille (“Icarus”), Imagine Dragons (“Believer”), and The Lumineers (“Stubborn Love”).
Starting with a bit of drama and buildup, “I’ll Wait” then slowly rises from being a small splash to a wondrous wall of waves, taking the listener to greater sonic shapes. Maintaining the adrenaline and the foot-stomping vibes, “One Hand Up” further infects the listener with unstoppable humming and singing.
“Running Scared (Desert Song)” is a trek into the countryside, mountainside, or desert-side for that matter; with its fluid horn flourishes, it is sure to cause the listener to grab the hands of another to lead her to the center of the dance area. After this playful tune, The Strumbellas start the next track, “We All Need Someone,” with an acoustic guitar and then beef it up with a violin and then the rest of the strings and the whole Gospel ensemble.
Another quiet ebbing follows in the form of “We Were Young,” which then shifts gears anyway with its jangly guitars and catchy choruses. The acoustic excursion continues with “The Party”—melodramatic, romantic, and sentimental—only to pick up again with the relative stomper “High”—a possible future classic that may remind the initiated of The Cure’s balladry (“A Letter to Elise”) albeit expressed in Alternative Country terms. Finally, The Strumbellas wrap up their latest batch of power songs aptly with the inspired mid-tempo “All My Life.”
Truly becoming one of Canada’s Alternative pride, The Strumbellas have proven again that their sonic spirits and melodic strength are as compelling as the sun and as alluring as the moon. Rattlesnake is one of those albums that will surely earn the repeat-mode button of any self-respecting enthusiast of Folk-based Pop Rock music. Cryptic Rock gives The Strumbellas’ new album 4 out of 5 stars.