Emotional Escapades with City and Colour: Delving into Little Hell

Words: Leah Solomon
Images: Sourced

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Throughout your life, you need to find that one album that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to sit in the middle of your bedroom floor and ugly cry until the morning comes. An experience like this is cathartic as all hell and often comes at a time when you need it the most. It also falls into your lap at the most random moment, sometimes when you are sitting in a very public place and there’s no going back when the dam walls of your eyes have burst. For me, that album is City and Colour’s 2011 album, Little Hell.

My first encounter with City and Colour was with the song ‘Weightless’. My boyfriend from my grade 12 year put it on a mix CD he made for me. At the time I was really freaked out and disgusted by this diabetes-inducing, sweet gesture. In retrospect, it is all thanks to him and our three month relationship that I have fallen in love with this musician.

I listened to that CD maybe once or twice, out of courtesy to him. But, three years later while I was moving into my new place, I plugged in my sound system and found “Leah’s CD of kiff music, because I dig her and think she is kiff” in the CD slot. After holding my hand to my face, trying to stifle embarrassed laughter (even though I was completely alone), I pressed play. Obviously 17 year old me was a bit quick to judge, because that is the best mix CD I have ever heard. Especially since City and Colour made the cut.

‘Little Hell’ is an extremely intense emotional roller-coaster. Dallas Green, former guitarist and vocalist for post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, has successfully managed to tear down the towering walls that protect people from acknowledging their true emotions with this album. I wish it could be pinned down to one facet, his voice, his strumming, his chords. But, it is the perfect combination of all of him that makes this album so haunting.

A common trend in his songs are dramatic breaks, making you think that the song is over. He has taken you through a sometimes harrowing narrative of emotions, and the break is a moment for you to recollect yourself, but a few seconds later he whisks you up again and the last minute of the song is even more powerful than the rest. Along with this, most of the songs on the album start off simple. It his just him and his guitar, holding your hand and caressing your cheek. But, after a moment of silence, a tsunami wave of instrumentals hit you, and he grabs you and pulls you close. You can fight it all you want, but it is best to give in and let yourself crumble in the sturdy embrace of his music.

What makes this album so haunting, as mentioned before, is that it sounds as if he is performing for no one in particular, but everyone at the same time, in an empty room. The echoey effects and harmonizing go hand in hand, giving his gentle voice a lot more body. His imagery is beautiful. He manages to paint a vivid picture, one that you could jump into if it were drawn on the pavement. “Those lines etched in your hands, they’re hardened and rough, like a road map of sorrow”, from ‘O’Sister’ is just one example of how he manages to send you down a river of paint, with a paintbrush as your oar.

I would recommend this album to anyone who not only needs a good cry, but also needs company while doing so. And best believe, City and Colour won’t judge you for it.