By Dylan Toigo
Toronto-based alt-country troubadours the Wooden Sky released their third full-length album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun on Feb. 28. The new record sees the same nostalgic nuances found on the band’s previous releases paired with a mature musical subtlety that signifies the Wooden Sky’s continuous growth as craftsmen of poignantly silver-lined songs.
Beginning with the Wooden Sky’s 2007 debut When Lost at Sea, singer/songwriter/guitarist Gavin Gardiner has always displayed a knack for penning dramatic and tragic tales in a matter-of-fact manner that provides his songs with a casual stoicism and thoughtfulness.
In a recent interview with Exclaim!, Gardiner suggested that “mortality isn't such a depressing thing. Maybe it's a beautiful thing where you lay down your sorrows and move forward. Into what? I don't know, I'm still working that one out."
This kind of loosely optimistic outlook on darker subject matter permeates Every Child. On “Your Fight Will Not Be Long,” the new record’s quiet and graceful glimpse into losing a loved one to disease, Gardiner calmly sings, “as you moved towards the doorway, I begged you not to leave, but your tired lips said nothing, and your eyes shone with relief.” This acknowledgment of both the cruelty and kindness of death is typical of the balance the Wooden Sky are able to strike on this album, always scraping together bits of hope and humanity out of struggle and sacrifice. As Gardiner sings in the slow, heavy-plodding “Angelina,” “should the ground that’s beneath us betray us tonight, and the whole damn thing goes up in flames, I will lay down beside you when it all gets to much, and quietly whisper your name.”
A similar balance can be identified in the musical arrangements on the new record. Although generally quite and restrained, a number of thundering, cymbal-crash-filled flourishes, like the swelling climax in “Angelina,” and the musical breakdown/guitar solo in “It Gets Old To Be Alone,” provide contrast and hint towards a darker, more unhinged emotion.
Finally, Gardiner’s vocals are more fruitful on this album than any of the band’s previous material. A listen to the Earth Angel-esque “Take Me Out,” reveals a display of vocal range rarely seen from the usually reserved frontman. Pair that with the ghostly harmonies of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Walker and bassist Andrew Wyatt, and you are left with a truly original and haunting vocal texture.
Rather than force feeding listeners sentimental lyrics and sad stories, the Wooden Sky paint a vivid emotional landscape with music while crafting beautifully austere tributes to the human condition.