Friday, November 20, 2009

What The Wild Things Record

It's been more than a minute since I last posted here on Ear To The Sound. Life outside of the interweb seems to keep interrupting and deadlines for publications that actually have such things weigh heavier than this self-directed exercised.
That said, since it's been a while, this one's a triple-feature like they used to do on holiday weekends at the Odeon drive-in back in the day. The common link between the three disparate sounding acts is that all have nature-inspired names.

First up is Bear In Heaven, who apparently Pitchfork have blessed with a "Best New Music" which means me and the 'Fork have been seeing eye-to-eye on more than a few records of late. Should I be concerned?
Beast Rest Forth Mouth is Bear In Heaven's sophomore album and instead of a slump it finds the Brooklyn band standing ramrod straight. While the music recalls Animal Collective with its expansive - at times chaotic - sound, it is also a more muscular, direct listen. Gauzy vocals and distant toms on opener "Beast In Peace" are abandoned a minute-and-a-half in for piercing, layered guitars and screams.
This is followed by the urgent shuffle of "Wholehearted Mess" with its insistent keyboard lines and "dig out/dig out/dig out" chorus. Look for Beast Rest Forth Mouth amongst the contenders for my favourite albums of 2009.

One album you won't see amongst the contenders is Hymns of Love & Spirits from The Wilderness of Manitoba. Which is not to say it isn't worthy of inclusion - it's just that I have very strict rules about including only full-length original albums and not considering compilations, Best Of's and EP's for my year-end list. Hymns... - while amazing - is an EP and thus ruled ineligible by my inner-fascist-list-maker.
Take a listen to "Bluebirds," the gorgeous opener and then weigh the fact that "Bluebirds" isn't even the best song on the EP. That honour goes to "Crow's Feet" a heartbreaking number that doesn't so much chronicle love lost as love never discovered as vocalist Will Whitwham intones "Love's just a word that he learned how to speak."
While the seven songs included on Hymns... (plus a bonus track, Whitwham's mother's original version of "Evening") are primarily acoustic, calling this a folk record would be a disservice to the band and to the genre. The Wilderness of Manitoba are 'folk' in the way of The Wooden Sky and Evening Hymns, not Pete Seeger and Bruce Cockburn. This is an amazing album - regardless of length. They do get bonus kudos for name-checking my home province.

Our last nature-based artist for today is Sea Wolf who quietly follows up 2007's great Leaves In The River with White Water, White Bloom. This is the third record Alex Church has recorded under his Sea Wolf moniker as well as the third released via the under-appreciated Dangerbird Records label (One AM Radio, Silversun Pickups, Dappled Cities). Church has been Creek Drank The Cradle wispy in the past, but much like Sam Beam's most recent effort, there's a heft to White Water, White Bloom that's evident right from opener "Wicked Blood." It doesn't hurt that the song is also catchy as hell.
Attention to songcraft is evident all over this album and there are numerous tracks that stick in the brain long after the final tune has played.

Check out the video for Sea Wolf's excellent lead-off track, "Wicked Blood" starring (where-the-hell-has-she-been) Shannyn Sossamon.

Visit Bear in Heaven's Myspace and their official website.

The Wilderness of Manitoba can be found on Myspace and on Facebook.

Check out Sea Wolf's Myspace page and official website.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...