It's a good thing I am playing catch-up on a number of 2011 releases or I might have missed out on the new one from The Boxer Rebellion. The third full length from this truly international band, "The Cold Still" has a title that befits the music. The quartet has crafted an album of melancholic rock at its finest.
Formed in London, the Boxer Rebellion was started by Tennessee native Nathan Nicholson and Australian Todd Howe. Englanders Piers Hewitt and Adam Harrison rounded out the band over time and they released their debut album, "Exits", in 2005. Ever since the release of their debut, the band has gone the independent route, not signing to a label and self-releasing everything themselves. Their second album, 2009's "Union", became the first self released album to enter Billboard's Top 100 album charts, based only off digital sales as it was initially only offered through iTunes. Obviously, this is a band intent on doing things on their own terms, and they've been succesful doing so.
For "The Cold Still", the band collaborated with respected producer Ethan Johns, who has worked with Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, Kings Of Leon and Turin Brakes to name a few. There is a brooding chilliness to much of the material here, tracks like "Locked In The Basement" and "Cause For Alarm" have an undercurrent of sadness running through them with guitars moaning and Nicholson's emotionally compelling vocals. "Memo" is an obvious highlight, with an instantly catchy chorus. First single "Step Out of The Car" is one of the more upbeat songs here, probably why it was chosen as the lead single.
The somber mood of much of the album carries over into its ballads, which are all sublime. Opener "No Harm" slowly smolders along with little more than drums, bass and piano rumbling underneath, while "Caught By The Light" is a more tender piece with Nicholson often singing in an angelic falsetto on the chorus. "Both Sides Are Even" slowly builds into a grand crescendo of strings and sighing vocals. Album closer "Doubt" staggers in its sparseness as Nicholson spends the first two minutes singing to a lone acoustic guitar as backing. Eventually drums join in before the song blasts into a full band finish with screaming guitar work leading the way.
There is a gloomy beauty to much of "The Cold Still". It is perfect that I didn't get to this album until the fall as it fits the mood of a rainy, chilly fall day. The Boxer Rebellion continue to do things their own way, and this liberated foursome has produced another of 2011's best.
"The Cold Still" was released in the U.S. March 29, 2011. It is a self-release by the band.