The Constantines, darlings of the Toronto indie scene, are at it again with the Sub Pop release Tournament of Hearts. Following their highly acclaimed Shine a Light, Bry Webb and the rest of the Cons deliver another impressive album of post/punk/rock & roll bliss. Tournament reveals a new progression for the Constantines, while staying true to the sound that made Shine a Light so great. The difference was probably affected by the presence of Oneida's Bobby Matador during most of their recording, and listeners familiar with both bands should be able to discern Oneida's influence. Tournament of Hearts should not disappoint existing Constantines fans or anyone else that is lucky enough to pick this album up.
Tournament begins with "Draw Us Lines," a song consisting entirely of one chord. Most bands could never successfully pull off such a feat, but Bry Webb's passionate singing and lyrics, combined with the ability to create a flow that circumvents monotony, allows the Cons to work it into an interesting track. The rest of the tracks are varied enough to keep anyone from becoming bored even after many listens. The album contains "Hotline Operator," which was originally released as a B-side on the "Nighttime-Anytime" single, and my personal favorite, "Soon Enough," a track with a Western feel that manages to be both mellow and upbeat, with catchy guitar-work tied together perfectly with Webb's singing.
The greatest aspect of Tournament of Hearts is Bry Webb's singing. His voice convinces you of the truth of the emotion and power of his songs. With so many bands either sounding whiny or bland, especially when it comes to songs even remotely addressing the subject of love, it is refreshing to hear it done the way it was meant to be: emotion without mushiness, rock without bland lyrics, and execution that seems not at all phony.