There’s this distinct memory I have of being 29 and seeing Arkells for the very first time in their hometown of Hamilton, ON for a life-changing show with Frank Turner at FirstOntario—a massive venue with a 17k cap that is every bit as packed as you’d hope. There is energy and collaboration between the bands, guest appearances, and the feeling of community. Standing in that space there is the understanding that right now, in this room, there is nothing more important or pressing in the world.
It wasn’t the first or the last time I saw them live, and truthfully every show has been incredible—they’re consistently one of the best live bands I’ve seen. But what’s followed me for the last six years is how it’s always remained the most memorable. I think about it a lot, wondering why it stands out and the only thing I can come up with is just how very personal it all felt. Like the band was playing to a room full of friends, a gigantic hang-out session with Arkells and 17,000 of their closest pals. They never treated their fans like strangers, they never kept them at arm’s length; the whole thing and everything Arkells strive for is designed to do the opposite. To bring the band and their fans closer together. To unify.
This is what I think of when I first hear Laundry Pile.
Coming into the album, I was expecting the same anthemic, stirring rock and roll that Arkells are known for both in their live shows and in their previous albums. I’ve always loved their ballads, songs that are stripped back in their approach, like “Quitting You,” but I never would have expected an album full of these songs. And yet, that’s exactly what Laundry Pile is. Raw. Intimate. Heartbreakingly honest and soul-stirringly romantic. It is, if I can be completely honest with you, as close to a perfect album as I’ve ever heard.
I’ll just say it. Laundry Pile has already become one of my favorite Arkells albums and it hasn’t even been 24 hours. Truthfully, it might even be one of my favorite albums of all time. It really is that compelling.
Described by the band as the “most raw, and intimate record yet,” it’s immediately apparent that Laundry Pile, while totally different than their past work, is a natural progression of everything that’s come before; it feels like this is always where Arkells were meant to go. While albums like Michigan Left, High Noon, and especially their debut full-length Jackson Square showed us a high-energy and powerful side of Arkells, Morning Report, and later Rally Cry felt like a turning point to the band’s experimentation with a slightly more pop-centric rock and roll. Where Blink Once and Blink Twice offered us a kaleidoscope of collaborations, Laundry Pile is all their own.
If you’ll forgive the drama of the sentiment, it feels like Arkells coming home. Which when I think about it, isn’t all that dissimilar to their 2017 Hamilton show. This time though, we’re shown that through Laundry Pile.
I’ve heard Max Kerman call Laundry Pile the band’s most cohesive album and I have to agree. There is a symmetry to the songs that feed off one another, each more beautiful than the next, all stemming from the opener “Life Is,” an absolutely breathtaking song that gave me goosebumps the first (and second, and third…) time I listened. Each song blends seamlessly into the next, filled with breezy, romantic vibes that make you feel like you’re living inside a movie. It is just as impactful listening alone in the car as it is with headphones in tuning out the world or sitting beside your loved one holding hands. It’s just that kind of album.
The more I listen, the more I find that I can’t help but reflect on my own growth over the last decade or so and wonder if maybe, Arkells were part of that journey all along. Just as their albums have grown and changed, and evolved with their own lives, that so has mine, alongside them.
I think back to the first time I ever heard the band (thank you Spotify Discover) and I still feel the same way about Arkells now that I did nearly a decade earlier hearing “Book Club” for the first time, or as I did crying to “My Heart’s Always Yours” in a Toronto parking lot, or screaming the words to “Leather Jacket” in Hamilton, or walking down the aisle with my now husband to “And Then Some,” and I imagine in one week when I see them in my hometown of Boston I’ll feel even more of these things. That I will feel hope and heartbreak, love, and longing, nostalgia for the past but also for everything that’s yet to come.
This time I will be armed with the seaside tunes of Laundry Pile, the last holds of summer giving way to a new era. A new album, a new set of songs to love, a new slew of memories to fall for. I will hold my husband’s hand and jump around to the songs and scream to my favorites and break out my phone’s flashlight to the slow parts and I will sway, and fall in love all over again, this time, with perspective that I could maybe have only dreamed of a decade earlier. This time, it will all be filled with hope and chaos in the very best way.
This is what Laundry Pile is made of.
Favorites: “Life Is,” “Skin,” Your Name,” “Tango Waltz” (if only because it is both unexpected and mentions Ossington)
You can catch Arkells on tour now, and stream Laundry Pile wherever you listen to music.