Born Ruffians are back at it. As a four-piece. Normally I find the addition of a band member far-into a band’s career troubling, a sign of desperation. However, change is not always bad, and after their (personally) disappointing album Say It, I’m willing to embrace it. And you should be too!
The opening track to their recently released LP Birthmarks, “Needle” is far more stylized and glossy than any previous work. This new sound (and presumably higher production value) is effective and approachable, and fits nicely in the canon that is Canadian indie rock. Admittedly, the opening vocals tread a bit too closely to Fleet Foxes. However, any comparisons vanish as soon as the band kicks in around the 50 second mark. Born Ruffians’ skill lies in their ability to capitalize on open space, and embrace the sparseness of a three-piece (sorry, now a four-piece) rather than constantly overcompensating and trying to produce a fat sound. Birthmarks as a whole still sounds like Born Ruffians, with characteristic lo-fi drums, guitar quips, and Luke Lalonde’s unmistakable singing (which has returned to fine form).
Born Ruffians are the second-to-last act of the Wolfe Island Music Festival, and I’m curious to see how their new line-up and album will translate into their notoriously spontaneous and frenetic live act.