Canadian originals, Arkells, are ready to release their seventh studio album, Blink Twice, through Virgin Records/Universal Music Canada. It’s collaboration-heavy, with several talented Canadian musicians to add to this dance-influenced album (Lights, Tegan and Sara, Cold Ward Kids to name a few). They’re reminding us that Canada is a tightly connected musical powerhouse. The willingness to work together, and be together, is at the heart of dance music. On Blink Twice, Arkells drive the listener through themes of power, past, and personhood, all while offering shout-along lyrics and upbeat synth styles.
If you separate the lyrics of the opening track, Reckoning, from the breezy music, it’s a warning. Lead singer Max Kerman states “the song is about privileged people who bury their heads in the sand. It’s also about the admiration for those who lead by example and want justice for people beyond their own kin.” He sings Last night I heard ’em clapping/Last night I heard ’em sing/Just wait until the smoke clears/See what the morning brings/And I don’t want back what’s broken/Man you thought that I was blind/And I know what you’ve been selling/And it ain’t worth a dime. With the music added, it becomes joyful. It lifts with a light beat supported by horns and a sing-along cheerleader chorus chanting R-E-C-K-O-N-I-N-G. One might not feel as if this fits with politics, that it is too soft and fluffy, but you can’t deny that cheerleaders get a crowd going before facing an adversary.
Dancing begs for connection; it asks others to join in and share your space. The track Dance with You feat Aly + Aj, and Coeur de pirate does just that. It is a bilingual ode to the inherent sexiness of the French language with its French verses from songbird Coeur de pirate. Singing sisters Aly+Aj sing, “everyone that I know/Want to dance with you/Everyone that I know/Want to dance with you/And I do too.” It’s not a song for the solitary; if you’re dancing to it, you’re dancing for or with someone.
On a tender note, Arkells join fellow Canadians Tegan and Sara for the track Teenage Tears. At first, listen; it is a lovelorn slow song. After a few more plays, and with a genuine appreciation for the voices of Tegan and Sara, the music doesn’t just evoke feelings of teenage love; it emphasizes the reality we all know-that we feel like we’re still sixteen and stuck in a body that keeps getting older.
Blink Twice blends simplicity with soul while bringing a few good friends along for the ride.