New Wild Everywhere

Great Lake Swimmers’ songs are built on a foundation of mellifluous harmonies, delicate melodies and evocative lyrics. The band’s first four releases won comparisons to Nick Drake, Iron and Wine, and Red House Painters thanks in part to their quiet beauty and ability to create a compatible relationship between traditional folk and indie-rock. The band’s material also underscores the vital bond between music and lyrics; like a good marriage one brings out the best in the other.

New Wild Everywhere is the first time the band has recorded an album in a traditional studio. Past recordings were made in a church, theater, grain silo, and a variety of unconventional settings. Working in a traditional setting hasn’t changed the band’s ability to create dreamy hypnotic atmospheres evidenced by the first track. “Think You Might Be Wrong” begins with an echoing electric guitar joined by acoustic strings, both guitar and violin. Tony Dekker’s soft vocals emerge in the mix, to ask “What time is it?” The song sounds like a love ballad but it turns out the piece is dedicated to the city of New Orleans. “It must have been some great fury/that took you so far, so far away” presumably is in reference to Katrina, but then again, maybe this is a love song. So goes the work of Tony Dekker. One track, “The Great Exhale,” was recorded in a subway station late at night after the trains stopped running. You’d be hard pressed to hear any difference between this and other tracks.

If the album’s title suggests untamed behavior consider that upheaval to be internal and cerebral. New Wild Everywhere features some of Great Lake Swimmers most notable pop songs but mellowness is the prevailing mood. Even when the band picks up the pace on the alt-country inspired “Changes With the Wind” the sound is tempered. Dekker has said that he’s viewed the band as a vehicle for his work and this time out he’s found the perfect elements to support his vision. Erik Annesen, (banjo/guitars), Bret Higgins (upright bass), Greg Millson (drums) are long-time compatriots. New to the group is Miranda Mulholland who offers gorgeous violin work and a female foil to Dekker’s vocals.

Tony Dekker’s lyrics read like poetry. There is no linear story, no absolute meaning, but his imagery and the cadence of his language elicits emotions that are hard to define or deny. Universal themes are in play like love, mortality, and the temporary status of being. Perhaps these ideas are best expressed in aesthetic and ethereal realms but what makes them more relatable is the music. Dekker uses the natural world as metaphor for just about every emotion. “On the Water” finds a boater caught in a fierce storm contemplating his life in the context of the history of all existence on earth. As these expansive ideas and roiling emotions unfold Dekker’s voice remains calm, a guitar, violin, and cello gently accompany him. It is this juxtaposition of emotions that make these songs so haunting.

New Wild Everywhere ends with “Les Champs de Progeniture” found earlier on the album in its English version “Fields of Progeny.” In offering this bilingual exploration of musical roots Great Lake Swimmers also acknowledge their unique place in Canadian music.

- Review by Afternoon Host Rosemary Welsch