With its expansive indie folk darkness and tones of gothic gospel, the debut album by Calgary's Reuben and the Dark has no shortage of brooding intensity. Co-produced by Yukon native Stephen Kozmeniuk (Madonna, Nicki Minaj) and Florence + the Machine drummer Christopher Haydn, this is actually the third release by singer/songwriter Reuben Bullock, but the first under the full band moniker Reuben and the Dark. Reuben, along with brother and drummer Distance Bullock, bassist Scott Munro, and multi-instrumentalist Shea Alain evoke the wide-open visages of their native Western Canada through the sepia-toned lens of the amped-up folk-pop sound. Acoustic guitar, banjo, trumpet, and a rich choral blend pervade the 11 songs on Funeral Sky, which has its roots in the ambitious emo exaltations of Bright Eyes and the heartland anthems of Bruce Springsteen. Standout cuts like "Devil's Time" and "Can't See the Light" pull out the kind of driving rock charm that inspires putting wheels to road and chasing the fading sunset. The moody call-and-response gospel throwback "Marionette" shows off the band's strong harmonic chops, which appear throughout the album and save tracks like the opener "Bow and Arrow" from falling too deeply into the growing chasm of generic, big-budget indie folk. Other songs like the single "Rolling Stone" are not so lucky, and its intended folk-revival charm comes off too hokey, sounding like the Lumineers singing "A Mighty Wind." Still, Reuben and his crew do manage to eschew some of these stylistic faux pas, taking some interesting turns with stronger textural tracks like the atmospheric instrumental title song and the closer "Black Water." For the most part, Funeral Sky improves upon Bullock's previous solo releases and is greatly aided by the addition of a full-time band and more rock-oriented production.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger