Terms like "indie-pop", "twee", and "Canadian" have kind of become the 2010 signifiers of tofu music, the modern "generic independent rock band". Toronto's Wildlife could accurately be called any of these things, but the work they put in here deserves much better than a lazy pigeonhole. They've expanded their mostly (and wrongfully) overlooked EP of the same name into a full length record, magnifying their buyount, sponge-y energy to a massive success. And whereas the EP felt like a tease, the full length Strike Hard Young Diamond
allows the band a more dynamic, fully-formed platform for their songs to thematically expand and settle. It may be late in the game, but these twelve tracks feel like one of the most memorable finds of the entire year, channeling the stomp-pop of contemporaries like Wolf Parade, mixed with the quirk of bands like the Harlem Shakes.
Mixing the perfect combination of wistful and giddy is not as easy as they make it sound, and the balance is important for the kind of music Wildlife is making, introspective and therapeutic. The execution of songs like "Move To The City" and "When I Get Home" speak to both the urge to jump up and down and to sulk, making them the perfect songs for the bummed-out optimist. And the uptempo "Money From God" shows off the groups ability to string together a bunch of melodic lines to form a jammy chorus, leading into a crunchy, complicated denouement.
The highs wouldn't be nearly as ruminating without some of the more somber moments, a standard that is especially true with Diamond
. And the slowed pulse never comes at the expense of the affecting songwriting, which remains consistently surprising in its lyrical poignancy and melodic playfulness. Lines like in "Killing For Fun" (one of the absolute standouts), "losing our friends and losing our jobs and losing our minds", set over bells and reverberated guitars and echoes, really works to keep the slow-shuffle feeling like it has the momentum of a quick tempo. Musical slight-of-hand.
One thing Wildlife does exceptional well is add elements that make the whole thing sound epic. When the band completely loses their marbles for a second, blasting a cacophany of strings and sounds, it's overwhelmingly bright. Even more so with their lyrical overlays, notably "killing for fun" over "playing games that young people should"; when the two are sung on top of each other, it's not just a playground of sound, it's words as art. Album closer "Out" echoes the opening melodic chorus of the record for some much needed (and often overlooked) thematic closure. For some it's an afterthought, but anyone who loved The Suburbs
knows that it's touches like this that separates the good from the great.
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MP3: "Stand In The Water"
Wildlife on Myspace