The eighth installment of Listen to This! features a loud endorsement of another quietly great album by Ontario’s own Great Lake Swimmers. Stay tuned in the upcoming days for a Q&A with Tony Dekker, the band’s lead singer and songwriter.
Great Lake Swimmers – New Wild Everywhere
Release date: April 3
The Great Lake Swimmers have been producing their brand of rustic brand of indie folk for nearly a decade now, producing five albums over that span. New Wild Everywhere is the latest entry in the band’s catalogue and holds up very nicely while showing a bit of expansion.
That new fold in the band comes courtesy of Miranda Mulholland, who is now a full-time member of the band after joining during the Lost Channels tour. That prior LP was phenomenal, with ‘Everything is Moving so Fast’ being a tremendous song and featuring the afforementioned Mulholland on backing vocals.
New Wild Everywhere gets off to a tremendous start, as ‘You Might be Wrong’ encapsulates everything that makes the Ontario band so great. A folk sensibility is buoyed by great song-writing and a very catchy melody, the album opener shows the band is at their most confident yet, unafraid to fully flesh out their ideas and be, by their standards, loud.
Make no mistake, this is still a folk record, but the songs here now have powerful hooks that stick with you. That juxtaposition of folk and pop is just one of the dichotomies present on the album, as the band operates out of Toronto but its members come from everyhwere around Ontario. That battle between the rural and urban comes to a head on the titular ‘New Wild Everywhere’ whose lyrics include ‘And the sun sinks over the big smoke/The sky explodes on the shuttering lake/There’s a new wild feeling dancing in the air/There’s a new wild everywhere’.
That sense of the country invading the city – the wild emerging in the urbane – is embodied in one of the album highlights, ‘The Great Exhale’, which was recorded in the abandoned Lower Bay Subway Station. ‘Exhale’ features strings, echoes and memories of ‘carved into rocks‘. A sense of melody can carry a song to great heights, and both the third and fourth track of this album employ unique song structures to do just that. ‘The Knife’ takes the usual Great Lake Swimmers influences like Smog and Palace and adds a touch of Andrew Bird, plucked and bowed strings aplenty. A song unlike anything GLS has released before, ‘The Knife’ needs to be heard:
After that exquisite experiment into the relative unknown, the band settles into familiar territory for the next few tracks, slide guitar and strings guiding them through a few brisk tracks. GLS have been dubbed by some as melancholy, but plenty of the songs here are upbeat, yet another sign of new levels of confidence.
That confidence fills a rather cavernous space on ‘Cornflower Blue’, a song with masterful production, banjo chiming in from the deep dark woods. ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’, the album’s 7th track, is its first single and it’s easy to see why. The closest thing to a sing-along track that the band is likely to ever produce, ‘Easy Come’ serves as a nice hinge into the solemn denouement of the album.
The quieter back-half of the album is punctuated by the regular old ho-down that is ‘Ballad of a Fisherman’. Expert instrumentation has never been this band’s forté, but the banjo work at the end of this track is a whirl.
For all the twists and turns and intermittent hooks, album closer ‘On the Water’ is a subdued affair, stripping back all the layers the band adds on this their fifth album and ending with quiet beauty.
If you’ve never chopped wood to toss into the fire you might not enjoy this album to its fullest, but there’s still time.