Born Ruffians

Say It

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AllMusic Review by

It would be easy to say that Born Ruffians' second album shows just how much they’ve grown since Red, Yellow & Blue, but it’s more accurate to say that they’ve shrunk in just the right ways. Recorded in just two weeks, Say It finds the band doing much more with less, allowing the quicksilver shifts of their tight, melodic, and rhythmic interplay to shine through. Nearly every song here reveals how cohesive, energetic, and flexible Born Ruffians have become, but “Oh Man” kicks off Say It with a perfect example: the band moves from lilting, liquid guitars and a rollicking beat to choppy rhythms and back again so easily that it’s almost imperceptible. Though the track always feels propulsive, the drums are kept to just the kick and snare where many bands would unleash a hail of cymbals (indeed, it’s not till halfway through Say It that a cymbal crash is heard), which only makes it more intriguing. Say It really kicks off after “Sole Brother”’s Afro-pop and soul flirtations, spanning high-energy songs like “Nova-Leigh” and “Higher and Higher,” as well as the more intimate “What to Say,” which uses tiny guitar licks and ghostly keyboards to spell out a bashful love story. Born Ruffians’ music is so playful that when Luke LaLonde’s vocals follow suit, as on “Retard Canard,” it borders on too much. Moments such as the brassy “Come Back” are interesting experiments that don’t quite work, and a handful of songs dilute the band’s energy by going on a hair too long. At times, it seems like Born Ruffians elude pure pop magic -- sometimes by choice, sometimes by chance -- but they way they bounce off of each other and lock together again is never less than impressive, and one of the greatest joys Say It offers.

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