For nearly a decade, Canadian singer-songwriter Sam Roberts has produced a series of winning albums that sound like Band On The Run-era Paul McCartney jamming with The Who over a bucket of ice-cold Labatt Blue bottles. Those records, highlighted by 2006’s masterful arena-rock throwback Chemical City, made Roberts a star in his home country, but in the U.S., he’s yet to make a significant impression. With Collider, Roberts attempts to rectify that by teaming up with Chicago-based producer Brian Deck, known for his work with Modest Mouse and Iron & Wine, and diversifying his meat-and-potatoes trad-rock sound with horns and funky rhythms. The result is Roberts’ poppiest record since his 2003 full-length debut, We Were Born In A Flame, which was similarly given to exotic instrumentation and occasionally emphasizing sonic texture over melody. On catchy, slickly rendered songs like “Let It In” and “No Arrows,” guest musicians Stuart Bogie of Antibalas and Ben Massarella of Califone fill up the spaces that were once filled by rock ’n’ roll bluster, modernizing Roberts’ music without necessarily improving it. Collider has plenty of commercial sheen, but Roberts has lost some of the scrappy directness of his best work.
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