They're Canadian. This is hardly big news these days, but hey, it's still pretty cool to be Canadian. And they are HUGE in Canada.
The same four people have been in the band since its inception in 1991. This is particularly unusual, especially given that...
All four are multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, and singers. Every one of their records includes songs written by all four members. This is the most egalitarian rock band on the planet.
This new one is a doozy. The double LP set has one side written by each member.
Jay Ferguson's first side reveals him as the most Beatles-influenced member of the band. His work has been consistently stellar throughout their career. And I don't mean he mimics the Beatles, instead the band often sounds like if the Beatles had been 20 in 1991 when they met in college. They're that good, and so are his songs.
Side two features Chris Murphy, and Murphy brings diversity of style and pop sensibility to every track. All of them have really produced strong material for this record.
Patrick Pentland's side rocks harder than the rest, and the power-pop label applies at least a few times. Pentland gets the most out of the strength of two guitars, bass, and drums, straight ahead hard rocking, and gives a nice balance to the (usually) less hard rocking Ferguson and Murphy. There's even a few psych and prog moments.
Finally, Andrew Scott delivers a 17-minute medley/suite/collage that caps the record off with style, panache, and daring. The suite features at least a few moments from past records as it defines the term musical amalgamation. But it starts with several minutes of what can most favorably be called musique concrete, and it's still 14 minutes long after that. I've heard it through at least three times, and I like most of it. You'll probably listen to the fourteen other songs more often than this one.
But the usual beauty of a Sloan record is to have these four voices heard, all mixed together and bouncing off each other, and some people are going to miss their musical democracy for this more deconstructed Sloan. I'm not having that problem, and if I did I guess I'd hit shuffle play. It is very good Sloan.