Gulfer Change Course on 'Third Wind'

BY Ian GormelyPublished Feb 23, 2024


A dozen years is several lifetimes in emo, a genre where entire waves can crest and fall in half that time. Self-aware Montreal emo math-rockers (or mathy emo rockers?) Gulfer are something of an anomaly, having stuck it out through all the scene’s various crests and collapses. Yet, as the name of their fourth LP Third Wind suggests, it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

The music made during the band’s first two winds — Gulfer 1.0 on their scrappy debut What Gives and Gulfer 2.0, which saw Joe Therriault and Julien Daoust replace original guitarist Steven Whiteley and drummer Simon Maillé  — was charmingly chaotic. Twinkling midwest emo licks crashing into each other at odd time signatures with bass player David Mitchell, guitarist Vincent Ford and Therriault howling overtop. It was great for pumping your fist and screaming along, but it put Gulfer in a box that belied their musical ambitions.

By 2020’s Gulfer the quartet began to chafe against those limitations, a shift that coincides with Therriault starting to flex his creative muscles. On Third Wind he takes full control, now writing the majority of the band’s songs. The result sounds less like a new creative direction than a refinement of what the band had been working with all along.

If Gulfer 3.0 has changed anything, it’s the band’s approach to arrangements. For the first time, they’re stretching out and letting a bit of space in, without losing the idiosyncrasies that endeared them to fans in the first place. The squiggly guitar riffs are still there, but used more sparingly, adding colour rather than driving things. The tempos are slower, the lyrics delivered with a bit more melody. Interstitial bits bridge one song to the next and everything just sits a little different in the mix. Even on a song like “Prove,” which feels like a bit of a throwback in context with the rest of the record, there’s a newfound desire to take the foot off the gas and enjoy a song about talking shit online — or something. For all the changes, the band’s lyrics remain a bit oblique.

It’s hard to say for sure the degree to which Therriault is steering the ship, but it’s to Ford’s credit that he was willing to cede creative control; many artists would sooner coast on fumes than let someone else take the wheel (see: Weezer).

Band politics aside, Third Wind is yet another triumph for Gulfer. All of the members are playing to their strengths, and its hooks and melodies benefit from more languorous rhythms. A decade plus into their career, Gulfer aren’t content to rest on their laurels.

(Topshelf Records)

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