Sloan doesn't stray too far from its patented power-pop sound in The Double Cross

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      The Double Cross (Outside Music/Yep Roc)

      Sloan is nothing if not consistent. Now 10 albums in, the Toronto-via-Halifax group has never seriously misfired, and never strayed too far from its patented power-pop sound. With The Double Cross, the four-piece is celebrating its 20th anniversary—the title is a sly reference to the roman numerals XX—and these Canadian veterans sound as vital as ever.

      The LP crams 12 songs into a punchy 34 minutes, and the upbeat tempos and jam-packed arrangements mean that listeners scarcely have a moment to catch their breath. “Follow the Leader” kicks things off with stomping drums and brisk acoustic strums before changing gears completely, delving into murky psychedelia and then surging piano pop. This segues seamlessly into “The Answer Was You,” which bolsters its soaring chorus with sweetly romantic lyrics and a subtle dash of synth strings.

      This one-two punch makes for a pulse-racing opening, and the rest of the album follows suit. Four of the tracks clock in at under 2:10, and the band maximizes its impact by combining rapid-fire hooks with lean, dynamic song structures that are filled with hairpin turns. As usual, all four members of Sloan trade off on songwriting and lead-vocal duties, and all of them are on top form. Best of the bunch is drummer Andrew Scott, whose sublimely retro “She’s Slowin’ Down Again” is a perfect distillation of ’60s paisley pop. Like the rest of The Double Cross, this cut sounds just like something that Sloan could have written two decades prior, and that’s no small feat.