Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Wild Rivers – Sidelines

The Toronto-based group doesn’t let listeners hold back the watergates 

Well folks, here you have it: the new album Sidelines by Wild Rivers has been released. It has been six years since their first self-titled LP and they’ve used the time to mature and develop their musical craft. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, the Canadian folk band consists of Devan Glover, Khalid Yassein, and Andrew Oliver. Their use of songwriting elements often reminds avid neo-folk listeners of Gregory Alan Isakov, The Paper Kites, and Blanco White. 

Sidelines is a thirty-minute trip down high school memory lane, reminiscing of the many milestones that are staples within one’s journey through adolescence. The opening track “More or Less” sets the theme for the rest of the album. The band is thinking back to the good old days of high school with lyrics like “The best friend you had for ten years, that video store just disappeared, first person that you loved, last time you used algebra.” Did they peak back then? Sounds like they did.

The album takes a heartbreaking turn with the third track called “Long Time,” where Yassein and Glover emulate a phone call between two high school sweethearts that have broken up, but Glover’s character still hasn’t moved on. “Four years, how you wanna play this?” It’s been a while since they have spoken to one another but whenever they do it feels like they were the same “two kids lying in the basement.” While there is a lot of reminiscing, Glover knows that she has to bring herself back to the present, even though it’s emotionally painful. “I gotta get along with life, but you still run my mind.”    

Did you think you were done being heartbroken? Think again, because two tracks later it’s “Amsterdam,” which “is the retelling of a friend’s breakup, who had big plans to move to Europe to be with her long-distance boyfriend,” said Yassein, in an interview with Music For The Misfits. 

There’s no denying that Wild Rivers has their own sound. When it comes to indie/folk they have the textbook slide guitar in the background to give a dreamy feel, yet they’re not afraid to use pad presets of synthesizers (pads being background chords that ring out), filling the space and giving a softer feel to the song itself.

It almost seems like the entire album is a road trip of sorts, looking at life flash past you through the side windows like Bon Jovi’s “Lost Highway,” only a little softer. The sixth track “Weatherman” successfully reproduces this feeling with lyrics like “Rolling down the window of the driver’s seat, looking for a place to breathe, knowing where I’m at and where I’m meant to be, trying to close the space between.” Being one of the more upbeat songs, the moral behind it has a more positive undertone than the other songs: be present and “look around, you’re missing all the good stuff.”    

 Perfect to put on while taking a trip down memory lane with an old photo album of your youth, or just during some down time. 


Score: 8/10

Trial Track: Amsterdam


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Music Quickspins


The Americana band explores their bittersweet ‘Brightside’ with their fourth LP 

The Lumineers are back with their latest album BRIGHTSIDE. The indie/folk band released their sophomore record last week, three years after their last album III, which was a gripping tale of addiction. BRIGHTSIDE takes a similar turn.  

The album starts off with the self-titled track (can you guess the name?) — naturally one of the album’s singles. The leading track deals with substance abuse, as lead singer Wesley Schultz belts out “I could barely see your eyes, psilocybin in a hotel room. […] Losing every other friend, finding nothing in the afterlife.” Based on the lyrics, the substance happens to be mainly psychedelics and is a continual theme in the discography of The Lumineers.

The theme of substance abuse follows throughout the span of the album. The next song that falls on the topic is “WHERE WE ARE.” It compares life with years of addiction to drugs to the dazed and confused aftermath of a car crash, saying “Holding on a steering wheel and coming up for air…Driving in the rain…Calling out your name, where were are, I don’t know where we are, but it will be okay.” It’s bittersweet, delving more into the bitter than the latter, and this trope follows into the rest of the album.    

While the majority of the album stays true to the roots of the band (some might even call it being safe), they have been keen to branch out and use hardware such as drum machines and synthesizers. A notable song is the penultimate track called “REMINGTON.” It starts off with a drum machine sequence that is reminiscent of Hall & Oates’s “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” which would most likely be a CR-78. 

The finale of the album ends with “REPRISE”, a heartbreaking tale about an individual (hopefully not one of the band members), who is headed for their final chapter, most likely due to an overdose. The song’s protagonist is “headed for the lights” at the end of the tunnel, “headed for the brightside, baby, tonight.” Clearly, the lifecycle of this album is saddening but we can see a light at the end of the road, so we settle for a tragically bittersweet ending as the individual is at peace with their outcome.   

As of now, BRIGHTSIDE’s songs have been collectively streamed nearly forty million times on Spotify in less than two weeks, which is no mean feat, considering The Lumineers have more than fourteen million monthly listeners. Clearly, the album’s bittersweet themes are ringing true to others as well. Unfortunately, they had to postpone a good chunk of their 2022 tour, which was originally intended to commence on Feb. 1. Currently, their tour is set to kick off on Feb. 24 in Nottingham, UK. 


Score: 7/10

Trial track: “REMINGTON”

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Swim away with Great Lake Swimmers

The band dials it down to simplicity in their new EP, Swimming Away

Toronto-based indie-folk group Great Lake Swimmers just released their newest EP, Swimming Away, and are set to tour Canada and the United States.The EP alludes to the new musical direction the band is headed in, singer-songwriter Tony Dekker said. “I think I’ve come around again to a very less-is-more attitude, and I think that’s sort of the direction I see for the future of this group too—focusing in on the quieter and more intense part of the songwriting again,” he said.

Great Lake Swimmers has garnered a lot of success over the past 15 years. They were nominated for a Juno Award in 2009 for their album Lost Channels, and made the Polaris Music Prize shortlist. The band even received public endorsements from Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and cyclist Lance Armstrong. However, Dekker did not expect to achieve any fame when he created the group over 15 years ago. “I released [the first] album with really low expectations, and basically as a vehicle just for songwriting,” he said. “It actually started as a kind of songwriting project that added people over the years as I crossed paths with people who were like-minded.”

Now, the frontman is excited to share a new aspect of his music on this tour. “It’s back to scaling it back and bringing it back to its basic elements, almost. You know, so that the message and the lyrics don’t get lost in the music,” he said. Dekker said the band will feature some of their previous work in their performances as well. “We’re focusing on some of the older songs from our catalogue, some of the quieter ones, some of the more quietly intense songs, you could say,” he said. “We did a tour like that in Europe last year and it was really well-received, so we thought we should do this across Canada.”

The band’s first stop on their Canada-U.S. tour was at La Sala Rossa in Montreal on March 22. “We’ve always had a good following [in Montreal],” Dekker said. “We’re really excited to be back in Quebec, for sure.” They will be heading as far east as Halifax, N.S., and then to the American mid-west to Michigan and Wisconsin. Joining Dekker onstage are Bret Higgins, who plays the upright bass, the mandolin and keyboards, and James Taylor, who is filling in for full-time band member Erik Arnesen on the banjo. Singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell will also be joining them. “We’re lucky to have her on tour,” he said.

The band has always been expanding and contracting in terms of membership, however, Arnesen and Higgins have been with Dekker for the longest time compared to the other musicians who have played with the band in the past. “[Erik and I] have been playing music together for 15 years or more,” Dekker said, “Bret has been with the band since 2008, so it’s almost 10 years now.”

Dekker said he finds himself most inspired by nature when creating his music. It is a theme that can be heard on all Great Lake Swimmers albums. Dekker said it’s because, while he now spends the majority of his time in the city of Toronto, he was born and raised on a farm in a small town in rural Ontario. “One of the main things that is a thread throughout the album is that I take a lot of inspiration from the natural world,” Dekker said. “I feel like that’s the kind of thing that’s in my bones—a more pastoral imagery.”Dekker also has a degree in literature and a deep passion for telling stories through his music. “The whole reason that I do this is to really express an idea through music and in song and in writing,” he said.

The artist will take hours, days and sometimes years to develop the lyrics and add a level of complexity to his music. It once took him five years to develop a single song. “I spend a lot of time with the lyrics, and I think there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface,” Dekker said. “I think that’s the type of thing that becomes rewarding once you start digging into it a bit more. I think there’s a reward in really investigating it, you know?”

The band will be playing in smaller venues than usual for this tour to be closer with the audience. “I think that the main expectation is to make a real sort of connection with audiences on a more intimate level,” Dekker said. The band hopes to record a new album following the tour.

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