Wintersleep – The Great Detachment review

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You don’t realize how old you are until you come to a band you still consider “new,” then realize that they have been together 15 years, and this is their 6th album. Six! Unbelievable. Furthermore, the last time we heard from Halifax/Montreal’s Wintersleep was 2012’s “Hello Hum,” and a co-headline tour with fellow Canadians Elliott Brood (and a stellar show at Corona Theatre here). After a well-earned break, Wintersleep are back with their sixth LP “The Great Detachment,” and first since signing with Toronto-based Dine Alone Records.

And you could quite literally say they are back with a bang; opening track and lead single “Amerika” begins with an artillery barrage of snare drum before a whooping backing vocal not unlike the outro to “Where Is My Mind?” by The Pixies kicks in. Inspired by a Walt Whitman poem from 1888, it describes one mans hopeful vision for our neighbours to the south, and is a triumphant start to the album. Certainly, it isn’t hard to see why it was the most added song on alternative radio in Canada for three weeks running. “Santa Fe” immediately follows, and is another fast-paced stomper, complete with a smattering of vocoder-distorted lyrics; have they been hanging out with Chromeo during their down time or something? “Lifting Cure” and “Shadowless” see them in much more atmospheric mood, with swirling guitars and fairly haunting lyrics (in the case of the latter), and stand out as tracks you know are going to sound goosebump-inducing live. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait too long for that; they’ll be here March 2nd at Théâtre Plaza St-Hubert. Mark your calendars!

“Metropolis” hits home immediately as the most epic, moving, emotional moment of the record, and melodically reminds you of “Zones” from “Hello Hum.” Again, it’s bound to be a highlight of the live show, and is definitely a highlight of “The Great Detachment,” if not the highlight. “Spirit” follows right after, with its drum machine-esque intro exploding around 5 seconds in into a liberating feel-good anthem, and then “Freak Out,” which as the name might imply, is the most upbeat rock-out of the record, and is reminiscent of Red Eyes by The War On Drugs.

The record concludes with “Who Are You,” which, with its laid-back Bluegrass-influenced guitars, seems the perfect way to sign off the record, giving the listener the chance to catch their breath after everything that has gone before, and attempt to digest the last 42 minutes. The LP has so much to offer that it must surely be revisited multiple times to really appreciate; indeed, according to iTunes I’ve listened through 10 times, and still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface in places.

To call this a “return to form” could imply that Wintersleep had lost form in the first place, which absolutely is not the case, but the expression does spring to mind after such a long time away. After 4 years, it wouldn’t be surprising for any band to sound rusty, out of practice, or devoid of ideas. On the contrary: on “The Great Detachment,” Wintersleep sound just as fresh and creative as they did 6 albums ago.

Review – Simon Williams

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