Post by Stephane Dubord
No strangers to Ottawa’s music scene, Yukon Blonde has played practically every festival in the area (Bluesfest, City Folk, HOPE, Dragonboat, Beau’s Octoberfest, and Hopped & Confused), and most of the venues, from Ritual nightclub to the NAC—with the Bronson Centre Theatre being added to the list this week.
In their decade of existence, the Vancouver rockers have developed a solid fan base across the country through their ceaseless touring, and their new album is sure to attract even more attention and admiration.
Released last June, Critical Hit picks up where On Blonde, their 2015 LP, left off, continuing the band’s evolution from a fairly straightforward indie rock sound to a more modern, experimental blend that incorporates more synthesizers and electronic influences.
Where 2012’s Tiger Talk brought us the punk/new wave-inspired “Radio,” On Blonde produced favourites like “Saturday Night” and “Confused” that hinted at the band’s dabbling in additional keyboard layers. With Critical Hit, those keyboards have been brought fully into the mix, as heard on the synth-pop ballad “Cry” and the neo-disco-funk of “Feeling Digital.” It’s an evolution that can be difficult to master, but one that Yukon Blonde manages with aplomb, thanks to the band’s willingness to leverage their experience while also venturing purposefully out of their comfort zone.
Critical Hit captures the band’s explorations of common relationship themes of love and breakups, but in the modern digital world.
Such a venture landed Jeff Innes (vocals, guitar) and James Younger (bass, vocals) in Spain at the end of their On Blonde tour cycle, with bandmates joining them sporadically to start crafting the next album. The inspiration provided by the unfamiliar environment allowed them to develop their songwriting without the conventions of home weighing down on their creativity.
As a result, Critical Hit captures the band’s explorations of common relationship themes of love and breakups, but in the modern digital world—a theme that transcends the song lyrics into the soundscapes created by the incorporation of modern digital instruments themselves.
The album closer “Ritual off the Docks” provides a glimpse into that exploration, as what could have been a standard Yukon Blonde song becomes an unconventional fusion of Pink Floyd-ish prog-rock expansiveness and Beach Boys harmonies, creating a nine minute production that brings you for a stroll along the Spanish waterfront, and an emotional journey in search of closure. As Younger attests, it’s an experiment that turned out quite successful, and exemplifies the band’s growing maturity.
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The end result is an album that serves as a testament to Yukon Blonde’s continuing evolution as songwriters, as musicians, and as a band. Melding the album with their back catalog of favourites should make for a fantastic set list, and as a full-fledged five-piece (original members Jeff, Brandon Scott, Graham Jones, as well as James and the newest addition: Rebecca Gray), Yukon Blonde’s reputation for energetic performances should be even further enhanced.
Considering they managed to warm up a crowd of frozen fans at a frigid Beau’s Octoberfest back in 2015, you won’t want to miss them in the cozy confines of the Bronson Centre.