Canadian indie rockers The Strumbellas have been described as alt-country and ‘popgrass,’ among other ambiguous labels, but I can’t say I have a better phrase for what they do. Their sophomore album, We Still Move on Dance Floors vacillates between the quiet and unobtrusive, as well as a forced pep that unfortunately doesn’t quite translate into the catchy, upbeat hooks the band may have been aiming for. There’s nothing inherently wrong with The Strumbella’s latest offering, it’s simply underwhelming.
Bright spots of the album include the peaceful opening track “Sailing,” and “The Long Road,” both of which seem as if they’re destined to wind up providing the background for episode-ending montages on CW channel television shows. “In This Life” hints that something of the band’s original explosive yet folky brand of energy is still lurking there somewhere.
After listening to this album and reading that The Strumbellas were named the ‘band to watch’ by numerous publications after their debut, I was sincerely confused. Dance Floors is nice enough, sure, but not exactly what you would expect from a Juno-nominated group. My confusion was relieved after a quick listen to their first album, My Father and the Hunter, a vastly superior release. In comparison to Dance Floors, it was bursting with energy and gaveample evidence that the group indeed earned their ambiguous genre labels.
I’m forced to conclude that Dance Floors must be a sophomore slump for this obviously talented ensemble. It’s almost as if someone slipped The Strumbellas some Ambien; it’s still them, only more lethargic. The album is ‘fine,’ in every sense of the word, including the sense which implies the lack of anything better than average. Compared to The Strumbella’s proven potential, We Still Move on Dance Floors leaves something to be desired. Let’s hope they’re not moving too far away from what made them great in the first place.