Arkells are dropping their latest full-length album Laundry Pile on September 21st via Virgin Music. It isn’t what you would expect from the anthemic hit-makers. It is stripped down and intimate, as if the band built their own piano bar for your next romantic date with the curtains closed and every candle lit.
Usually Arkells give us the chants and cheers ripe for a political rally and communal sing-alongs shared by friends in a left-leaning dive bar downtown Vancouver. Laundry Pile is more one-on-one. The name alone brings up thoughts of bare skin and closed doors. While the former albums focused on the bigger picture, this one is about interpersonal details, a glance, a last touch, and what the sound of someone’s name does to your brain chemistry. It’s about love.
The first track, Life Is, digs into the uneasiness of time and how it stretches and shrinks out of our control. Through a warm guitar and gentle melody, frontman Max Kerman sings of loss, distance, and holding close the good with the bad. It is followed by Skin, a slightly more upbeat song still drenched in longing. Kerman sings of wanting ‘skin in the game,’ a promise of commitment. The album should be listened to as a whole, from start to finish, a rarity in our Spotify soundscape. It’s worth it. Track six, Beginner’s Mind, uses horns to reflect an emotional breakthrough, and track eight, Time, is perfect for a slow dance in the living room. Every track feels like a classic.
Laundry Pile still carries the same thrill as their former albums, but it is more private than public. Hundreds of years before mass-market music, love songs were considered dangerous. They were seductive and demanded desire, dulling inhibitions and begging listeners to sin. Now they’re common-place, but no less dangerous, for better reasons. Arkells, like every band before them writing a song about love, are trying to define the undefinable through language. Every time someone makes that attempt they create something new by altering reality a tiny bit. The beauty of it is that “reality” of love never stays the same, it changes with every love song. Laundry Pile is no less stirring than Blink Twice or Rally Cry, maybe even more so.
While breaking their own musical ground, they still keep the lyrical energy that brings an audience together, even if it is an audience of two. The revolution starts in the little things, and the little sounds. Laundry Pile makes the touch of every piano key feel deeply personal.