What a gorgeous day. Spring has sprung here in Boston, and I am currently seated on the porch of my apartment overlooking the patchy green backyard of my nearest neighbor. I am also currently listening to Birthmarks, the latest musical offering of Midland Ontario’s own Born Ruffians. It is an album chock full with musical ideas, some that work, and others that are perhaps slightly more ill advised. However, much of the listening experience is pleasant, and can oftentimes induce furious bouts of head nodding with its big beats, jangly guitars, and sing along vocals.
To begin with, Birthmarks does not break any new ground sonically. It opens with “Needle” a song that starts off sounding exactly like a Fleet Foxes outtake. This is not necessarily a problem, as I was once an avid fan of said band, but my impression of Born Ruffians was one of a jittery start-stop indie group, not a pastoral folk collective. Thankfully, “Needle” quickly introduces a bouncing drumbeat, along with chunky guitar chords and a syncopated rhythm. Aside from its somewhat tired beginning, it is song that is nicely representative of the content that is to follow.
One of the best things about Birthmarks is that Born Ruffians have wisely spread the best tracks throughout the record, and in doing so have created a nice balance between the more upbeat songs, and those that dial the tempos down. “6-5000,” coming directly on the heels of the opener, continues the trend set forth by employing even more shout along vocals and an admirable energy. Luke Lalonde and company are not simply satisfied to sit back and let these songs passively unfold. They are much more interested in yelling together until their voices crack, and the snap of a well-hit snare. “6-5000” also even briefly introduces a slowed down section with steamy jungle reverb added to the guitar.
On track three, “Ocean’s Deep,” one of my personal favorites, Born Ruffians keep the catchy tunes flowing. Bassist Mitch Derosier shows off his considerable ear for enticing low end, laying out a liquid smooth instrumental line that carries throughout the piece. Later on the record, his no-frills bass work lays the foundation for many of the more experimental tracks. Songs like “Rage Flows” and “Too Soaked to Break” benefit greatly from the interplay between the slashing guitars and Derosier’s expert playing.
As was previously stated, Birthmarks is by no means a totally original work, nor is it a great one. “Golden Promises” and “Never Age” have a more introspective sound than much of the rest of the album, but are just a little boring. They utilize some electronic noises that don’t necessarily fit with Birthmarks theme of a frenetic four piece, and definitely aren’t a necessity for the recording.
In the end, Born Ruffians have created a solid musical statement with their third release. Listening to Birthmarks isn’t life changing, but it is an album that is definitely worth your time. Check it out.