If you had predicted the career Dallas Green would have outside of his day job, the post-hardcore act Alexisonfire, you should be buying lottery tickets. And yet six albums in, Green is perhaps more beloved for his cleverly-named don’t-call-it-a-side-project than Alexisonfire ever has been, and for good reason: throughout every release thus far, he’s shown himself as a soulful and preternaturally talented singer and songwriter, an impressive feat.

On his sixth LP as City and Colour, A Pill for Loneliness, Green ditches his broody tendencies and replaces them with something else: gorgeous, glittering touches of electronics and, most importantly, an actual sense of optimism; “I wrote a lot of dark songs and wrapped them in the most beautiful sounds we could find,” Green said when he announced the album. He’s right—every song is a subtle and gorgeous testament to his renewed sense of resilient positivity, something he underlines on “Imagination”: “My imagination will/ Lead me straight down into Hell/ I’m gonna keep on livin’/ ‘Til the dancing days are gone,” he sings on amid reverb-soaked guitars. There’s a decent amount of echo and reverb on the album, as though each note and beat would rather linger for a moment before dissipating. Few songs here could be described as “fast”—“Strangers” feels like the only one that isn’t content to drift a bit—and it’s of great benefit to the album. It just sounds inviting.

Green is not an actual optimist, though, and every so often he shows his hand: “Have I lost my touch?/ I wanna feel less fear/ Where is the stirring of hope?/ Once I held so near,” he asks himself on “Song of Unrest.” One song later, he jocks Robert A. Heinlein on “Strangers,” a song about wanting to come back from the rifts that can separate us: “We are strangers in this land with so much left to discover/ Can we get back to learnin’ how to live?” He’s also gently self-reflective, mining his life as a touring musician for pathos: the six-minute “Astronaut” likens his career path to “an astronaut/ Above the curvature of the earth,” while begging his family to “Give me one more year/ Then I’ll be around.” Comparing himself to a rocketman isn’t necessarily the most original turn to take, but Green is still able to inject enough beauty into it that you don’t roll your eyes too hard at the comparison.

The downfall of A Pill for Loneliness is that it lacks immediacy, requiring a few listens to really click in the listener’s brain and allow one to latch onto the often gauzy compositions that make being inside the album so comforting. On top of that, some songs are delivered with brick-like subtlety, like the weakly-written “The War Years,” which contains cloying observations like “It feels like we might suffocate/ Under the dirt and the hatred” and “The mountain between you and I/ Surrounded by rivers of poison,” both of which seem like they should be beneath Green as a songwriter.

If you’ve heard any City and Colour album before, you won’t be shocked by anything you hear on A Pill for Loneliness. He doesn’t truly break his own mold at any moment, stopping just shy of any actual sonic growth. While this is part of why it’s such an inviting album, it also feels like he has enough experience as a multifaceted musician that he could have experimented a little bit more. Having successfully crossed over from post-hardcore to golden-voiced indie folk, is there anything he could have made with City and Colour that would have been shocking to anybody? Almost definitely not, and one can only hope that at some point, he gives himself a little more license to branch out and give us something not just pretty, but gripping and inventive.

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