City and Colour's 'The Love Still Held Me Near' Is a Clear-Eyed Portrait of Grief
Published Mar 30, 2023Dallas Green's sixth studio album as City and Colour is more than a record, more than a collection of songs. The Love Still Held Me Near is a journey: a story of pain and healing that begins in the throes of anguish and hopelessness and ends with a glimmer of hope. The record came as a result of Green losing his best friend in 2019; the misery he feels is evident in every lyric, his pain relatable to anyone who has ever experienced tragedy.
"Then the morning came / And the sun started rising / But I was missing my friend / So, how do I carry on?" he asks on opening track "Meant To Be." He questions the way things are, doubts that the grief and heaviness he feels are the only way forward, and offers quiet but poignant attacks on a world unfit to cradle the pain of loss. Condemning capitalism and a world that values work as a measure of worth, Green grapples with our increasingly empathy-free existence.
"Let's just forget the unforgiving presence of death / And live wild and free / Godless or not," he continues in "Underground," in what feels like a small beacon of hope from the pain that the surrounding tracks bear. The track list moves like grief itself, with a glimmer of hope before plunging back into darkness and hurt. But, as Green does so well, each track is buoyed by his smooth voice, full of emotion, and poetic lyrics that can somehow perfectly capture every sentiment.
In his solo work, Green never strays too far away from plucking his guitar strings and showcasing his vocals, a recipe that has worked for him since his first foray outside of Alexisonfire. Every release feels like an intimate look into Green's soul, but The Love Still Held Me Near feels by far the most personal and raw, and is accompanied by textures and arrangements that have gone previously unexplored in his solo work.
The music builds as Green reachs the end of the album, and the notes of hope and redemption become apparent. "Bow Down to Love" is a six-minute ode to an optimistic hope for the future, where Green implores listeners to lead with love while offering solace to those who are hurting. The final track, "Begin Again," is also six minutes, but offers a searing verse of pain before leaving the listener with the knowledge that they, too, can overcome. "They say joy will come along with the morning sun / But it's starless tonight / And this grief, it weighs a ton," he sings, before ending the track looking upwards. "It's been a long time since I've felt peace in my mind / But there on the horizon, I can see the light." (Dine Alone)