Lace up your wingtips and set your curls, because the Ballantynes are burning up the dance hall with their debut LP, Dark Drives, Life Signs. The Vancouver ska-soul-rock-and-roll sextet has graciously blessed us with an ass shaking, fancy footwork inspiring collection of songs (can I get a hallelujah?). Dark Drives, Life Signs is a twelve track party that hearkens back to the Motown era and sounds more like the sunny South than our cloudy coast.
Each member of this sextet — which includes Jarrod O’Dell, Vanessa Dandurand, Jennifer Wilks, Corey Poluk, Max Sample, and Michael McDiarmid — plays at least two instruments and sings (drummer McDiarmid is the only one who doesn’t lend his voice to the music). The vocals are consistently impassioned, pedal to the metal. It often sounds as if an entire gospel choir is singing. The engines driving the big sound of Dark Drives, Life Signs are the string and brass ensembles that the band brought in for the record. Former drummer Trevor Racz rejoins the band for this recording, and producer Felix Fung adds supporting guitar for a sound that’s as thick as biscuits and gravy.
The Ballantynes will hold your body hostage, and there is no use resisting: you will be shaking your hips and shimmying your shoulders by the second track, “Let’s Go”— I have never been more compelled by the danceability of an organ accompaniment. The seventh track, “Argent,” had me pulling dance moves straight from the sixties without inhibition. Even the shining slow jam, “You Were Mine” will have you grooving and singing along at full volume. The Ballantynes keep soul fresh with mosh-worthy ska inspired brass and bass lines in “My Place Your Town” and “Us.”
There is no way you won’t like this album. Like a strong drink, the music loosens your limbs, warms your cheeks into a smile and puts a fire into your belly. This is music to sweat to, to get down to. Dark Drives, Life Signs will peer pressure you into losing your shit on the dance floor. It will make sure you’re having the best night of your life.