Constantines are more pressing and impressing on their latest, Kensington Heights. The Guelph, Ontario band (now based out of Kensington Market, Toronto’s answer to the Lower East Side) play a brand of hard, roots-rock more associated with Chicago or Texas than the Great White North. On Kensington Heights, their first for new label Arts & Crafts, they combine that with an evocative cry into the way we all live now.
The band starts things off strong with “Hard Feelings”, a driving track possessing a prominent bass line that really sets the stage for what is to come. The pressing force that keeps up throughout Heights does get some different displays, from the epic, world-weary grin of “Million Star Hotel”, to the orchestral imminence of “Shower of Stones”. But Constantines do it particularly well when they go a little higher, more melodic, such as on the even catchy “Trans Canada”, the emotional blues-roots of “Our Age”, and the slow, blues-strum carry of “Time Can Be Overcome”.
Heights’s highpoint, however, comes in the record’s late middle. “Brother Run Them Down” is a rockin’ epic that grabs the listener, while the following “Credit River” is rockin’ in a catchy way, yet speaks to today’s crippled economy. Things get more touching on “I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song”, which just gets bigger and better, and the more restrained, quieter “New King”. Unfortunately, Heights doesn’t quite keep its quality up to the end, finishing out with the album’s two weakest pieces, “Life Or Death” and “Do What You Can Do”. “Life” has power, but is too stop-start, while the stripped build of “Do” takes a little too long in getting bigger.
Toronto-based Arts & Crafts has recently been consolidating its hold over Canadian indie-rock, adding to its Broken Social Scene-related stable with such already-established Maple Leaf acts as The Most Serene Republic (QRO interview), The Stills (QRO interview), and now Constantines. And that width and depth have born fruit in the driving, pressing heart of Kensington Heights.