Arkells spin a wild one with third album, High Noon

Back two months early for their third triennial full-length, Hamilton, ON’s Arkells have proved themselves a well-crafted draught. High Noon, out August 5th via Dine Alone Records, is a driven album any fan can cheer along to; it's seriously the best thing Arkells have done thus far, and one has to wonder exactly what role new (temporary?) keyboardist Anthony Carrone (illScarlett) played in this.

Every component of the band is perfectly tucked into the others on the album, with synchronized bursts of sound reminiscent of hip-hop isolations but for musical instruments, and the piano sticks out like a green thumb. In that it’s sparkly, clean, fresh, and steals Max Kerman’s otherwise well-deserved spotlight.

Back to vocalist Max Kerman: he delivers High Noon like as hard rock diva, with that very subtly expressive voice distinct to “the post-grunge style.” Most of the album’s tracks are juxtaposed in this way, a contrast most prominent on “Cynical Bastards,” with trilling keys next to Tim Oxford’s pounding toms and Mike DeAngelis’s stiff guitar.

Of the three existing singles, “Never Thought That This Would Happen,” packs the most punch – I had actually unknowingly nailed it for a single when I first heard the full album, then found out it had been the lead single. Its relatable lyrics detail a friendship turned something more with lines such as “when you’re playing for no strings sometimes you find yourself tied up” and “sometimes you make out with an old friend.” Furthermore, the elongation of pre-destined syllables (“sometiiiiiiiiiimes”) and gang vocals mid-chorus (“AND IIIIIIIIIIII / AND YOUUUUU”) are a recipe for instant catchiness and plentiful airtime. By the distorted guitar cadenza and “ooh ooh ooh,” the feeling is equivocal to Judd Nelson’s victory pump at the end of The Breakfast Club. (I never thought this analogy would happen either.) Nick Dika’s bass is perfectly turned up a few more notches, also; it’s not complex, but it makes an audible difference. The track’s single demerit point is its cliffhanger ending, created by a missing resolution chord to a jazz piano cadence. It’s too strong of a song to end underwhelmingly.

The above is not to discount singles two and three entirely, “Come to Light” and “11:11;” the former is a classic, fast-paced head bobbing piano rock piece that does Crash Kings better than Crash Kings. Meanwhile, the latter pop song's redemption is its xylophone foundation a la The XX’s “Islands." But quite frankly, I can’t tell lyrically if "11:11" is about one night or love at first sight. (Listen: “You were glowing in the dark / You made a wish at 11:11 / I had your hips at 12:54.”)

After a strong start to High Noon set up by the accusatory “Fake Money,” the album is informally split by four consecutive tracks: “Dirty Blonde,” which sounds like a college fling and lyrical sour note despite flawless piano; “What Are You Holding On To?” where the acronym “WAYHOT” is too distracting to actually focus on the classic rock throwback; “Bennie and the Jets”-inspired “Hey Kids!” and a song waywardly dedicated to a party girl in a “Leather Jacket”... fans will either appreciate these or they won’t.

But High Noon reveals itself to be a front-loaded album with an electric finish in the form of power ballad, “Crawling Through the Window,” and big-city-night-traffic strings (a descriptor that makes more sense exampled) on “Systematic.” Overall, any local would be mad proud of the five-piece unit who are currently touring in European. Arkells are back in North America August 22nd, and having seen their live show during their Jackson Square era, I do strongly recommend. Dates here.