What you get when you combine one of the city’s most suave and sophisticated songwriters with the city’s finest musicians – Adam Hogan (Hey Rosetta), Chris Donelley (voted Best Drummer in Town), Steve Maloney, Robbie Brett (Repartee), Ian Cornelissen (The Domestics), Katie Baggs, Ilia Nicoll, Aaron Collis, Tom Power, and then some – is, naturally, one of the best local releases in quite some time.
What is to be praised here is the time and thought that’s gone into these nine songs. Every song on the new album is the product of a careful and calculated songwriter, and every song is recorded by the book in the way they build, and fill every space with just the right flourish of instrumentation, never letting our interest wane.
If you read up on recording albums, there are some rules. There’s a term “sweetening the mix,” where the trick is to, as an example, introduce some keys and backing vocals in the second verse that weren’t there in the first. Or there’s lead guitar in only the second chorus.
Every song on this album fills every bit of space in the background with a bed of innovative sound texture that perfectly imbibes the sentiments and ambiance of each song. And the songs are so good and varied. What Adam Hogan is up to on lead throughout the album is an uncommonly interesting and an atypical use of lead guitar.
Check out the outro to one of the album’s strongest offerings, “Long Time Coming.” These little flourishes keep a song engaging and fluid enough to keep you on the line. Also, there’s more than 5 different people singing on the album to keep things full and varied.
This album goes beyond whether you like the songs to being a lesson in how songs ought to be built, and how far a little patience goes in putting an album together. The mood evoked on the album is affecting and genuine, and the lyrics are sincere and sung clearly enough to do what music does best: tug at the heart and make you nod, “Been there, man. Been there.”
Better still, the songs aren’t just whining and pining, they’re sharing the post-heartbreak wisdom that comes from dealing with life’s low blows, or moving on from the last thing the world took away from us.
There is a clear sense the album isn’t just the last 9 songs Power wrote, but rather the best of his last 2-3 years, and 9 that gel well. These are songs he has worked over, toyed with, and rethought. “Joanie” is a wrenching song of a man making peace with the woman who got away. “And if I know tomorrow like I think I do, tonight will be forgotten in its name.”
As a lyricist, Power is consistently clear and simple in the poignancy of his words. This trait nails home the notion that lyrics can matter as much as music in making us care about the song. People respond to honesty, and on Wild Bells, the lyrical honesty pairs well with the sincerity and authenticity of the music.
As for the music, it is altogether unconcerned with emulation: the music here is its own breed of whatever genre you want to brand it as. Bryan has carved out or invented his own place within the singer-songwriter genre, and it’s a sound that would appeal to music fans of many demographics.
The hook-heavy single “Summer Nights” is the album’s liveliest moment, and bound to be your favourite song of the week, or month, if you haven’t heard it yet. It’s strategically placed as a second track to meet the need modern music listeners have for loving a song on first listen, but the album’s more subdued and nuanced tracks, like the title track, “The Day We Soared,” and the slow builder “Grown Man Mistakes” showcase Power’s potential for crafting a song that matters and makes you feel something.
And it’s the polish he and the all-star band put on these songs that make them shine so bright. There is a right and wrong way to build a house so it is solid. And there is a right way to build a strong song. This album is full of them. The first four songs alone make this the next album you need to buy if you’re a fan of the genre.