Shirk (our live session producer) once coined The Low Anthem as “Masters of Restraint.” I thought that was a funny label to stick on a band, but as I delved headfirst into my obsession with The Low Anthem, it made more and more sense. The Low Anthem create space and tension and always leave you wanting more. After each listen, you begin to appreciate this restraint as their tunes become more beautiful in time.
And while it may seem ambitious to lump an up-and-coming band from Canada in with one of the best American acts around, The Wilderness of Manitoba exhibit many of the same qualities that make The Low Anthem so special. Their EP, Hymns of Love and Spirits, was a solid listen but in no way prepared me for what their full length debut had in store.
While their EP was more traditional and built more around vocal harmonies,‚ the full length sees the five piece from Toronto spreading their wings and challenging themselves. On the EP, there were two principle songwriters. On When You Left The Fire, band member Melissa Dalton says “Everyone had input on the new songs from the very first listening, sometimes on the same day that the song had been written.”
The more communal effort has given the band a much fuller sound. The second track, “November,” features a mournful lap steel over an elegant folk song. “Hermit,” a tune that wouldn’t sound out of place on The Low Anthem’s Charlie Darwin, features a harmonica riff that gives the tune a nice bounce.
Midway through you are greeted with another standout track in “Summer Fires.” The song slowly builds as an acoustic and banjo dance around and then the percussion crashes in at about 50 seconds. I had asked Melissa if it was about the changing of the seasons. She elaborated on my thoughts with this:
I think also about how the seasons can really affect how you see the world and how you create or when you create. Spring is can be hopeful but slightly depressing when there’s too much rain whereas Summer is full of action but maybe isn’t the most creative period and for some reason Fall seems to be a really fruitful time because you slow down and have more time to think.
I am itching to see these guys live. They’re doing a big Cross-Canada tour this summer and hope to hit the States sometime in the Fall.
Video: The Wilderness of Manitoba – November (live at a bonfire)