Album cover for Born Ruffians' Squeeze (photo:: Born Ruffians)
Album reviews
Artist:
Born Ruffians
Album:
SQUEEZE
Release year:
2020
Label:
Wavy Haze Records
20 October 2020 / by Sophia De Guzman (author)

Movement: Indie rock, Pop rock

Lane: Wolf Parade, Tokyo Police Club

 

Born Ruffians has delivered their second album of 2020, SQUEEZE, a companion to this year’s earlier release JUICE. With its clean-sounding production, bright instrumentals and sunny vocals, SQUEEZE is made of nine easy to listen to tracks. It’s such an easy listen, in fact, that almost nothing truly stands out.

Throughout most of the album, the vocals and the instrumentals work in tandem, neither one stepping forward. At moments, the two are indecipherable, almost becoming one sound. Because of this, the lyrics and individual tracks have a hard time coming to the forefront.

SQUEEZE eases in and out of existence without the build-up ever going anywhere. Since their first album in 2008, Red, Yellow & Blue, the Canadian band has pivoted from their indie rock roots to a brighter, pop-ier sound. And with that Born Ruffians moves smoothly from track to track while keeping the same pace, even through less upbeat songs. The opening track, 'Sentimental Saddle', starts with a distant electronic tone that grows until the more familiar rock instrumentation brings in the rest of the track. And to mirror that, 'Albatross' is punctuated with an echo-y piano until it ends with an isolated horn, haphazardly eking out a final melody.

The middle, however, blends together with each track sounding and saying the same thing. This isn’t to say that Born Ruffians does it poorly. The catchy seventh track, 'Leaning On You,' opens with the lines, “I pissed your name in the snow / ‘Cause I want you to know / That I love you so much” neatly conveying the boyish expressions of love that much of the genre is predicated on.

Most songs lament coming to a rough point in life, especially with someone you love and yet, lyrics don’t take centerstage until the final track 'Albatross'. The soft, piano-backed ballad paints a picture of an albatross, falling asleep; a metaphor for one of the singer’s loved ones. But apart from this track the mood of songs doesn’t ever match the lyrics. With subtle electronic tones under the clean and bright four-piece band the album sounds happy, but contrasting with SQUEEZE’s melancholic lyrics each track feels like falling through a narrative false floor.

It's easy to see that nothing on SQUEEZE is played poorly; Born Ruffians have found a sound that works. Not all music needs to have some great meaning or bring a reckoning either. However, when it’s the band’s second release within a year the question of, “what for?” comes to mind. SQUEEZE doesn’t have a smash hit like its counterpart JUICE in 'I Fall In Love Every Night' nor the emotionality to counter it. So, while it's solid in its sonic execution, SQUEEZE struggles to give listeners a reason to come back to it.

 

Rating: 6.5/10

Gems: Albatross, Leaning on You

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The author

Sophia De Guzman

By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you (it's me! I'm the funk!)

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