The Wilderness of Manitoba's fifth album, Across the Dark, pushes their sound further along the path from indie-folk upstarts to festival-pop stalwarts.
Dark is the first Wilderness album solely written and produced by lone original member Will Whitwham, and there's a fitting singularity to its sound: the instrumentation and production snugly couch his songcraft's increasingly pop-rock demands. Dark feels more introspective than Between Colours was, but Whitwham's songwriting handles the shift in tone with ease. In its finest moments — the strutting '80s vibes of opener "Head for the Hills," the gorgeous "Clovers" — Across the Dark shimmers like a sky full of northern lights.
Folk, the band's anchoring descriptor, crops up a few times: "On My Mind" and "Old Fear" both fit the bill with familiar finesse. But the album's spirit bends toward the pop-rock radio of decades past: "Cindy Runs" actively evokes the '60s pop of Whitwham's youth, doubling down on the band's stock-in-trade harmonies from a fresh angle.
Dark could use a little more of that, actually; there's a feeling of ubiquity across its 10 songs, especially in their production, that starts to diminish in impact. And the band's core sound, particularly those layered-vocals choruses, rarely strays far from what's already well-trodden Wilderness of Manitoba territory.
Still, Across the Dark is a welcome addition to the band's catalogue, offering a continued sense of progression, if only an incremental one. (Pheromone)