“I never gave you the best part of me,” Tony Dekker sings on “Think That You Might Be Wrong”, one of the dreamiest tracks from New Wild Everywhere, his Canadian ensemble’s fifth album. To the listener, this can be taken as a promise of good things to come. It’s been four years since Great Lake Swimmers released Lost Channels, an album widely praised for its level of polish and artistic maturity, and fans of Dekker’s soft vocals and evocative arrangements will find plenty to satisfy the anticipation they’ve harbored in that time.
There is much that is pleasant on New Wild Everywhere. “The Great Exhale” is a lush, lilting gem that demands to be replayed, drawing its power from fiddle strains and a light drumbeat that propels the tune forward. These are the types of songs that the Swimmers are known for, and when it comes to tugging on the heartstrings, they’ve still got it. “I’m coming home, so leave the light on for me,” Dekker sings, amid that ever-present, haunting fiddle, and you sincerely hope that someone does.
Tracks like “Easy Come, Easy Go” bring in touches of sister genres, bluegrass and country, diluting the pure folksiness that the group is known for. They have country-style bombast, but Dekker still sings as though he’s afraid of waking a baby in the next room. Dekker and co. are better suited to softer tracks like “The Knife”, a soothing, ethereal duet punctuated by plucked fiddle strings. The lyrics are sometimes hard to understand, but the mood is enough; this is moonlit-drive-on-a-summer-night music if you’ve ever heard it.
The album title evokes a sense of novelty and wonder, but paradoxically, the summation of New Wild Everywhere is not as great or wild as that of previous albums. The confines of a studio may have something to with this, facilitating a more sterile product than the abandoned grain silos and churches that provided the recording venues for Lost Channels. In making the move to more conventional methods, something wild and vital got lost.
Essential tracks: “Think That You Might Be Wrong”, “The Great Exhale”, and “The Knife”