So you’re at a party, find your way over to that self-serve iPod/DJ station, and need to pick something cool, fun, and ideally, unpretentious. In other words, something everyone can enjoy in that very moment. Well, as long as the gathering isn’t an all-out, dance-crazed get down, Born Ruffians is an excellent choice. Especially the fantastic 2008 debut, Red, Yellow & Blue— it’s catchy and engaging, yet chill enough not to impede casual conversation, and, of course, it’s guaranteed to garner at least one or two of the coveted “Hey, who’s this?”
Luke Lalonde is the lead-singing, guitar-playing frontman of the four-piece Canadian indie rock band known as the Born Ruffians. Rhythymnals is his first solo effort and it’s a collection of songs that he began in 2010 and mingled and continued with in his downtime on through 2012. As he told Exclaim!, because the album was worked on over such a long period of time, it encompasses a wide range of sounds from song to song. Yes, Rhythymnals is a different sounding indie rock record, with noticeable traces of R&B and atmospheric electronica, but it still retains much of that exciting, Born Ruffian’s earnest energy, and the result is an album that’s carefree, refreshing and fun.
Upon first listen, “Undone” is dangerously close to sounding like a page left unturned by one of the more popular 90’s boy bands. “I always said I’d be your boyfriend, and that’s that,” Lalonde croons over an a cappella background harmony of repeating “Undone” vocals. But listen further and it’s the bare bones influence of smooth R&B, the good stuff, caught up in the track’s playful pop hook. It’s a fresh, feel-good tune and it will marinate in the back of your mind for days, in a good way.
The lead track “Grand (Rhythymnals)” begins with two minutes of varying atmospheric sounds, but it then comes together and transitions beautifully into a well-crafted tune. It is highlighted by a delicate, whistle-backing chorus, and the song as a whole is reminiscent of Born Ruffian’s gem “Little Garcon.”
“Hate The Night” and “Red Wagon” both continue the R&B vibe. “Hate The Night” formulates around a catchy doo-wop-esque melody, but also includes a brief ode to Bon Iver on the soaring atmospheric soundscape about two-thirds the way through. “Red Wagon” on the other hand, is a passionate, yearning anthem built on a pulsating clap-track beat. Lalonde helms each of the songs with his solid ranging vocals and both are must-listens on Rhythymnals.
Of all the solo tunes, “Shove Off” is that which feels most similar to the Born Ruffians. It embraces fewer sounds of different genres and includes Lalonde’s excited, wound-up vocals that are familiar on the band’s past releases. The instrumental “Calm Down” is really the only Rhythymnals track that falls flat. It begins with potential but completely unravels with the inclusion of sporadic clicks and clunks similar to those heard in a cellphone game.
The release of Lalonde’s Rhythymnals does come at a bit of an odd time. Born Ruffians have been in the studio working on their third album for a while now, and just recently, they’ve appeared to have finished it. With murmurs of an album release in early 2013, it’s hard to believe Lalonde will be doing any extensive touring or promoting behind Rhythymnals. However, it doesn’t take away from the quality of the work presented here. Rhythymnals was Lalonde’s chance to try some different things, experiment with some different sounds and not surprisingly, much of it works. It’s been awhile since 2010’s Say It was released, but Born Ruffians’ eagerly-anticipated third album is finally just around the corner; Rhythymnals is a standalone, impressive offering, and it’s more than capable of holding BR fans over the rest of the way.