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Album Review: Wildlife – …On The Heart

Wildlife_Press1_HQ “This is the sound of the underdog not only winning, not only crushing the opposition but laying a serious claim to the title of best guitar album of 2013…”

Wildlife  |  …On The Heart

Wildlife aren’t particularly well known. Their 2010 debut album, Strike Hard Young Diamond, made its biggest mark when many of its songs were included in a fake leak of fellow Canadians Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. Across its 14 tracks Wildlife presented themselves as competent, if rather erratic, songwriters in awe of spiky guitars and clattering drums. While sure of melody, it didn’t scream out as the work of a group with a genuine jaw-dropper up their sleeve.

All of which makes …Of The Heart even more of a surprise. Not only did the Toronto four-piece contact, befriend and draft in Peter Katis – whose name has appeared alongside records from The National and Interpol – to produce it, but the result is as a heart-warming as it is smile-inducing. This is the sound of the underdog not only winning, not only crushing the opposition but laying a serious claim to the title of best guitar album of 2013.

Everything that makes …Of The Heart such a strong, stirring listen can be heard in its anthemic lead single, ‘Born To Ruin’. Mixing the wide-screen ambition of Springsteen with the chant-along pop-punk of early Arcade Fire, it roars the record into its dramatic, majestic life. That singer Dean Povinsky’s singing voice sits somewhere between Win Butler at his most enlivened and Band Of Horses’s Ben Bridwell at his most visceral only adds to the raw emotions on display. That it is followed by the direct but dark, brooding ‘Bad Dream’, on which Povinsky tells the story of “two lovers, an enemy and kerosene” before asking not to be told “the awful things you have done for money”, means that both lyrically and musically …Of The Heart engages from the start and doesn’t let go.

That’s not to say that this is just an album of megacharged, broad brush strokes. Yes, Wildlife operate best when their reverb level is set you Grand Canyon, but the beautiful ‘Don’t Fear’ is a delicate slow-burner that dials down the bombast and turns up the atmospherics as Povinksy urges “don’t fear your heart dear, it’s saving you from disappearing” As bizarre as the reference might be, the melody is something that wouldn’t be found out of place on The Kissaway Trail’s debut album, while eeery guitar and programmed drums play a neat supporting role. The downbeat ‘If It Breaks’ too, is a joy, with sheets of icy synth underpinning more clever wordplay – “there’s a reason this muscle is the strongest that there is” – as a hint of acoustic guitar enters the mix.

There are pop moments too; because what really is the point of the all huffing and puffing without the surefooted, winding melodies that you meet at every turn on …Of The Heart.  The sugar rush synth-pop of ‘One For The Body’ – with its punky energy and echoed “woahs” – is perhaps the greatest radio single that may never get played on the radio. Who can only hope that it does. ‘Dangerous Times’ has a real, genuine groove running through its bubblegum centre that no amount of fuzzy electric guitars and lyrical nostalgia can mask. It is undeniable.

There is little doubt that once you get to the end of …Of The Heart, you will be both buoyed and baffled, enlivened and inquisitive. When speaking to this site a short while ago, Povinsky spoke of the romance and violence that has gone into the record, and the quest to found out what’s truly important to us all. This is an album that is bloodied and bruised, and the band sound noticeably battle hardened having written a noticeably chirpier debut. Simply put, …Of The Heart is a throbbing swell of blood, guts, passion, misery and pain – all the things make life, life. It’s an album that puffs out its chest, walks tall and holds its head high. It will no doubt make you do the same.

 

9.1

 

 

 

 

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