Sloan’s 12 is indeed the 12th album from Canadian power-pop perennials Sloan, which means it’s as good as Led Zeppelin IV, Black Sabbath’s 4, and Chicago 4 all put together. But seriously: not only are Sloan the rare band to make it to their 12th record, and not only are Sloan the rare band to make it to their 12th record with all four original members, and not only are Sloan the rare band to make it to their 12th album with four original members who are equally prolific songwriters, they’re arguably the only band to make it to their 12th album with four original members who are both equally prolific songwriters and all still working at the top of their respective games, sounding utterly ageless in the process.
On 12, each of the four principals contribute three stellar songs that play to their core strengths: Patrick Pentland with the soaring rock anthems, Chris Murphy with the playful, participatory sing-alongs, Jay Ferguson with the jaunty prog-pop gems, and Andrew Scott with the whimsical innerspace explorations. Says Murphy, “I guess with the album title, we are showing off the fact that we have 12 records.” Actually that’s not entirely true. “When we were making the record, I kept Tweeting about it and hashtagging the posts #Sloan12,” said Pentland. “So I was like, let’s just call it Sloan12. Naming records is always the worst and we can never agree on a title!”
On their previous release, 2016’s Commonwealth, each member of Sloan was granted their own side to use as a blank canvas, resulting in a collection of de facto solo EPs packaged as a double album. This time, the band were eager to initiate more creative cross-pollination—well, at least to start. “We’d hoped that this LP would be more of a reaction to Commonwealth,” Ferguson says. “Whereas that album was more of everyone retreating to corners to produce and sequence a side of their own material, this one would potentially have more collaboration than usual.” Alas, as Murphy notes, with three parents in the band, “It’s hard to get everyone in the room with kids, and people getting sick from their kids, and hockey practice with their kids.”
Still, that collaborative spirit shines through on Murphy’s “Wish Upon a Satellite,” a glorious union of AC/DC chords and Big Star choruses that features a second-verse lead vocal from Pentland, while the normally self-sufficient Scott invited Murphy and keyboardist Gregory Macdonald to (in Murphy’s words) “come barf harmonies and melodies all over” the Pink Floydian reverie “44 Teenagers.” And while the 12 songs on 12 greatly emphasize each member’s distinct personality, they’re all ultimately united by their lean economy and punchy precision. “I really wanted to make a concise record after the sprawl of Commonwealth,” says Murphy, noting this is the first Sloan record to feature equal song contributions from all four members since 1999’s Between the Bridges. “I think this record will be that much easier to digest. It’s certainly easier to learn!”