Sam Roberts Band's fifth studio album, 2014's Lo-Fantasy, is a melodic, psych-inflected album that showcases Roberts' knack for mixing gigantic, propulsive rock melodies and dance-oriented hooks. Produced by Britain's Youth (aka Martin Glover), who previously worked with the Verve and Beth Orton in addition to clocking hours performing with Paul McCartney and electronic giant the Orb, Lo-Fantasy follows up the group's well-received, rock-heavy 2011 album, Collider. A staple in his home country of Canada, and well-traveled in Europe, Roberts is less well-known in the States. Subsequently, he's a bit of an underappreciated artist in the U.S., and fans of Kings of Leon and Maroon 5 would do well to check Roberts' unique brand of groove-oriented rock. As with most of Roberts' albums, Lo-Fantasy is at once organically rootsy and studio sophisticated, with songs that straddle the line between stadium shouters ("We're All in This Together") and midtempo club anthems ("The Hands of Love"). At his core, Roberts is a guitar-playing singer/songwriter, but some of the best cuts here, like the driving "Kid Icarus" and frenetic "Human Heat," evince a strong '80s, synth-centric new wave influence. The sound is even more apparent on cuts like the moody, disco-inflected "The Hands of Love," which brings to mind Avalon-era Roxy Music. Similarly, cuts like "Metal Skin" and "Chasing the Light," with their sleek keyboard sheen, sparkling guitar flourishes, and lightly funky rhythms, are sultry, '80s-meet-2000s productions. Word has it that Roberts wrote these songs, not solely in his Montreal basement studio, but primarily in a sun-soaked house on a hill in Andalusia, Spain. True or not, it's certainly a warm, brightly hopeful album. Ultimately, though Roberts may sing "You're not the only one who's flying too close to the sun," as he does in "Kid Icarus," with Lo-Fantasy Sam Roberts Band burn more brightly than ever, but never crash.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar