Yesterday's Ring's Back From El Rancho is the EP that followed El Rancho. Backing up, Yesterday's Ring was the country side project of the members of Montreal's the Sainte Catherines. Yesterday's Ring started out as essentially acoustic Sainte Catherines (with original songs, of course.) But by the time that El Rancho and Back to El Rancho came out, they had an actual band sound. For those possibly more familiar with 2009's Diamonds in the Ditch: this release has less of a "rock" sound to it than that album.
The EP starts with a fast beat as "The Boat That Never Sinks" starts. Hugo Mudie sings hurriedly, but not as angrily as on Sainte Catherines albums. Other than the guitars, the song probably wouldn't have sounded too weird played as a rock song. The lyrics make it clear that it is a break-up song, but done in such a great way: "Break my heart and tell stories about me […] / To your friends and your good-looking new boyfriend / Of how great I was when I actually was / It's the end of the worst summer ever / I'll miss the rain and the cold, cold nights." Break-up songs often fall into the "I'm bitter and I'm going to drag your name through the mud" category, but here, we get the bitter/self-deprecating combo that isn't quite so petty and much more endearing.
Things get slowed down--drastically--for the next song, "San Cristobal De Las Casas." It is a duet, something Yesterday's Ring has a knack for (evidenced by "A Small Piece Of Paper In My Shoe" on El Rancho and "Scrabble Strip Club" on Diamonds in the Ditch and probably some other song that I forgot which a nerd will point out to make me feel bad (and it will work)). This is my favorite style of singing for Mudie's vocals. It is slow, mellow, almost burnt out. It sounds very worn and beaten down. There is something beautiful about the contrast of vocals.
Back to a full band playing, Mudie's vocals are slightly more aggressive, but still very mellow and worn and the song itself is played quite slowly. I know that I've spent the entire review praising how perfectly worn his vocals sound on each song, but "Xmas in Greece" is really the epitome of said vocal styling. The song starts out with "You make me feel like an angel even though I'm sitting here at a dive bar with Tara, Ross and Boss / And I don't even know what's the name of the place / I know it's Christmas and I miss you so," perfectly setting the mood for the song. At a little over halfway through, the song ramps up a bit and gets a little less self-pitying and more upset about the situation before making a full racket and the chorus comes back
"The Red Red River Road At Night" contains the line "I'll be singing songs for you tonight about suffering, drinking, dreaming of leaving," and that is exactly what you get here. It isn't so much about the lyrics or subjects as the general relatability of the songs, the passion they are sung with and how perfectly the music showcases the vocals. There are themes of longing, heartbreak, drinking (of course), and a green shirt--making me think Back to El Rancho is all about one tumultuous relationship that couldn't stand the strain that came from Mudie being on the road and from her spending Christmas in Greece. And, Hugo, if you're reading this, I'm sorry, but I have to say, your heartbreak was worth it for this EP.