12 was released a quarter-century after Sloan released their debut album, 1993's Smeared. While most bands go through plenty of changes in 25 years, this is one group that seems to have been spared the ravages of time. The four guys who founded Sloan -- Jay Ferguson (guitar and vocals), Patrick Pentland (guitar and vocals), Chris Murphy (bass and vocals), and Andrew Scott (drums and vocals) -- are still the same four guys in the band today, and their joyous fusion of power pop tunes and rock & roll guitar alchemy sounds as fresh and satisfying as it ever has. Sloan's 2014 release, Commonwealth, focused on the four different musical personalities at work in the group, with each member writing and arranging what would have been one side on a double-vinyl release. 2018's 12 (which happens to be the group's 12th album, as well as featuring 12 songs) finds them in more unified form; while the advance press on the album reported each member wrote three songs for this effort, the tunes are credited simply to Sloan, and while one can spot bits of the players' individual personalities here, 12 is solidly a group effort, with the band sounding fully engaged and inspired throughout. Sloan are a band that have been able to mature without losing sight of what made them memorable in the first place; the craft of their songwriting has grown stronger, their melodic ideas are more thoughtful, but the high-flying guitar lines and the group's brilliant harmonies are still pure pop ambrosia, both of the moment and utterly timeless. "44 Teenagers" is an unusual achievement, a song about youth written from a middle-aged perspective that's neither cloying, sentimental, nor short-sighted. It's rare enough for an act like Sloan to endure, but it's even rarer for them to maintain a level of quality as strong as these guys; 12 proves that they refuse to simply tread water, and it's smart, heartfelt music from an uncommonly great band. If only more people outside of Canada knew just how good they are.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming