Arts and Crafts (www.arts-crafts.ca)
Some CDs make a first impression that adequately informs the listener as to its principal qualities. Certainly one will notice new subtleties and change their impressions somewhat over time, but the first few listens are formative. Other recordings are “growers:” they only reveal their best qualities over time. Kensington Heights has been, for me, a grower.
The Constantines’ fourth full length (and first for the Arts & Crafts imprint), it first struck me as a somewhat craggy beast. Hard-edged guitars and yawping vocals have been the group’s calling cards, but in the past the Constantines have presented songs that evinced bracing immediacy. Kensington Heights finds the band stretching itself both lyrically and musically. “Shower of Stones,” with its thorny overlapping distorted guitars raising the collective howl of a lycanthrope horde, and the propulsive punk anthem “Our Age” are some of the hardest rocking and most resolute songs I’ve heard yet this year. Meanwhile, “I will Not Sing a Hateful Song” and “Hard Feelings” are abundantly emotionally resonant. In the pervasively ADD digital culture, one needs to consciously make the effort to leave room for growers. I’m grateful to the Constantines for reminding me to listen for something more, something richer than surface impressions, with Kensington Heights.