It’s a very strange feeling when you listen to a band that you've known personally for virtually your entire life. Do you hold biases because they’re your friends or do you look at it as objectively as you can to uphold artistic integrity" Although the latter does seem more appropriate for just about anyone else, there’s really no way to completely reject biases as well. Needless to say they both need to be taken into consideration, but there’s a lot of good stuff to say about this indie pop Atlantic Canadian trio, Wake Rider, here on their short self-titled debut.
If there’s one I feel like these guys do really well is that they understand their style very well. Their 2015 EP felt extremely cohesive and each song was like an extension of the one before it offering some of the most saccharine, jazzy, psychedelic and bright songs in their discography and this album is no different. From its clean and groovy bass licks to its motorik drumbeats these guys have crafted a much more stylish, cool and consistent record than before.
Despite this psychedelic and sunshine feeling to the album, there's a very melancholic environment to these tracks. These guys seem to have a lot of energy and passion for what they do and yet manage to mix these dreary and sad notes into the bulk of their music which makes it feel more human. 'Compassion Fatigue' sounds simultaneously like a mix of joy being with someone special and doubt that one day it might be over.
A large part of this album is focused on the lyrics, especially the first half, which are mostly fixated on a relationship with someone. Lyrics like "If I knew you back in high school we would run down the halls and make out", kind of have me rolling my eyes a bit, but the lead singer makes up for this by delivering them in a way that fits the instrumentation well, a lot like Stephin Merritt from The Magnetic Fields.
Their creative peaks lie on the instrumentals where they're just fooling around and having a good time. That's not to say that the other tracks aren't as strong but the instrumentals are so catchy and attention grabbing that they show off a more defined and realistic personality. They’re also significantly less melancholic and much more playful which is a nice change of pace. The synths and odd guitar effects on the tracks ‘Catch a Wave’ and ‘Wave Rider Strut’ are reminiscent of a nu-disco track like something you’d hear from Todd Terje or psychedelic rock band like Tame Impala. Shoreline is very mellow and quiet similar to parts of MGMT’s Siberian Breaks and features some of the best bass playing on the album.
The best track, 'It’s Starting Now' reminds me a lot of The Strokes with its fast-pace and garage rock sound; the inclusion of some spacey synth effects in the middle section was a great touch. The closer to this album has very relatable lyrics to me that captures the despondency many people in their late teens/early 20's go through.
The production on here is very crisp, consistent and clean. Every instrument is prominent and given an appropriate amount of spotlight in the mix. The bass on here is very noticeable and possibly the best sounding instrument on here. The guitars have this subtle chorus effect throughout and sounds a lot like Mac DeMarco. Although sometimes there are slight clipping issues like when the guitars get a tad bit loud in the track ‘Into Your Love’.
Although the cohesion and simplicity are some of the defining traits here, it’s also one of the main problems. Almost every track is similar and doesn’t dive too much outside of the chosen label. Not a lot here is new and every track sounds pleasant but not too exceptional. ‘Dance With Me Girl’ for example seems like a filler track to me; it’s a bit too muddled and the drumming doesn’t really seem to fit right. Sometimes the album seems so involved in its influences and nostalgia that it comes off as too commonplace. But the way I look at it, you can’t expect too much from something of this style and it’s very consistent and pleasing listen, so it’s easy to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Wake Rider is a band that knows how to write a proper indie pop/rock record. The album never feels too long or drawn out and it’s the perfect length for this style at less than half an hour. It can be a sad record at times and a joyful one at others, but they always stay in this very bright, psychedelic and warm range, nice for a summer afternoon. It has some very musically impressive instrumentation and vocals throughout, and the lyrics, while corny at times, come off as sincere and heartfelt to the band and you can really feel it in their music. Plus they might just be joking around anyways considering the silly album cover but who knows"