There’s an indefinable moment when a band’s music breaks out of its little, zeitgeist-imposed box to finally be heard and appreciated on an entirely different level. Remember when you had never heard of Broken Social Scene, Menomena, Sufjan Stevens or Sigur Rós? Do you also remember how, after their music had literally tapped into your soul, you went rushing out to find every release by the band? Or, as in the case of Broken Social Scene, went out and picked up anything remotely affiliated, such as Stars, Apostle of Hustle, Metric, Do Make Say Think and Jason Collett? A friend of mine recently experienced this very thing with Explosions in the Sky. Something within him clicked upon hearing All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone, and the buying frenzy began. Sometimes, the change happens in the band, causing one album to be significantly better than their previous releases. But sometimes, it’s all in the hands, ears and minds of the listeners, finally finding themselves ready to embrace an artistic breakthrough or outright consistency. Unfortunately, for A Northern Chorus, I have nothing with which to compare their fourth album, The Millions Too Many, as I had not heard anything from them before it. What I can tell you is that due to the absolute gorgeous qualities abound on this album, I will be rushing out to find the first three in due time.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say that world the world needs now is a dreamy pop band with violin and cello, but they probably should have. That’s what A Northern Chorus delivers with The Millions Too Many, a smart, instantly likeable and beauteous pop rock masterpiece that tightens up the heart and shudders the breath. Whereas past releases by the Hamilton, Ontario band boast tracks that usually last over eight minutes, Millions tightens up the timelines, keeping each song under six minutes, but with each still retaining an epic feel. For instance, second track “Skeleton Keys” stops just short of only four minutes, but with quiet breathy intro, arena guitar bridge and sweeping chorus, not to mention the slow burn of the outro, the song seems like a gloriously long cycle that couldn’t be long enough.
A Northern Chorus’ songs majestically swell into the territory of the grandiose, like Sigur Rós with discernable lyrics, Explosions in the Sky after a life-changing epiphany, and Coldplay with classical textures. “The Canadian Shield” is the perfect example of my point, the strings acting as the delicate and sweet counterpoint to subtle vocals and a guitar and drum combo that put you in your happy place.
This is the magic of A Northern Chorus, a band I now regret having missed at SXSW. No matter how much stress you may have in your life, and I’ve had my share recently, listening to The Millions Too Many will have those worries shed as easily as James Brown’s cape. You know they might return, but for those few magical minutes you’re immersed in their music, life is more than okay, it’s absolutely breathtaking. At the close of one of the highlight tracks, “Remembrance Day,” the words are sung, “Don’t let this fire burn out / And don’t let me forget that I’m alive.” A Northern Chorus reminds us all about the beauty in life, and how to enjoy it. When it comes to bands, there certainly are `millions too many,’ but A Northern Chorus has earned its place and then some with their fourth, and quite possibly, best album.
U2- The Unforgettable Fire