Release Date: Feb 11, 2014
Record label: Paper Bag Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Sam Roberts Band's fifth studio album, 2014's Lo-Fantasy, is a melodic, psych-inflected album that showcases Roberts' knack for mixing gigantic, propulsive rock melodies and dance-oriented hooks. Produced by Britain's Youth (aka Martin Glover), who previously worked with the Verve and Beth Orton in addition to clocking hours performing with Paul McCartney and electronic giant the Orb, Lo-Fantasy follows up the group's well-received, rock-heavy 2011 album, Collider. A staple in his home country of Canada, and well-traveled in Europe, Roberts is less well-known in the States.
Since his arrival at the tail end of rock's revival in the early-2000s, Sam Roberts has been a polarizing figure in the Canadian music scene. It's odd, given that his musical output has never been particularly political (unless you count his shout out to socialism in "Canadian Dream") or in any way abrasive (this is a guy whose music is regularly played at hockey games). Still, from 2006's Chemical City on, Roberts and his music have remained somewhat cringe-worthy to critics, despite retaining the fan base he inadvertently identified in "Where Have All the Good People Gone?"For his fifth studio album — and second under the moniker the Sam Roberts Band — he's throwing that all out the window.
Sam Roberts can't keep his psychedelic, African-influenced groove under wraps. Light on the meat-and-potatoes bangers that rock radio prefers from him, his latest release experiments with a healthy amount of soul-searching while his 11 tracks roam unchained. Five full-lengths in, Roberts plays it anything but safe: nothing resembles Don't Walk Away Eileen.
Following in the steps of Arcade Fire, the Sam Roberts Band has added some serious production gloss and dance-floor grooves to their repertoire on their latest album, Lo-Fantasy. The “Get Lucky”-esque opening track, “Shapeshifters,” is all palm-muted afro-pop guitars, slinking bass, and bubbling synths, the first of many electronic-tinged tunes that represent a departure in sound for the band. But the Canadian group can't find a balance between wanting to stay true to their roots while expanding into electronic territory.