Sunday, November 01, 2009

Shout out: The Wilderness of Manitoba.

[I originally prepared this for's artist spotlight section.]

Toronto band the Wilderness of Manitoba got their start a year ago, but they're already getting recognized for their lush, melodic, nature-inspired folk songs. The band self-released their 8-song EP, Hymns of Love and Spirits, back in August. The release celebration was a two-parter: first, a rousing performance in a backyard garage; and then, a week later, a packed Sunday-night affair at indie hotspot Sneaky Dee's. Both events were thrilling for me, and for presumably most other people in the audiences. That a band can seem entirely appropriate---and sound amazing---in these two very different venues is, to me, a mark of something special.

With musical influences ranging from Joni Mitchell and other 60s folksters to hot American indie bands like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, or our own Great Lake Swimmers, the WOM create soundscapes that draw you in, make you feel at home, and leave you wanting more. It may not be the most original music you've ever heard, but the band's 4-part harmonies are beautiful and stick with you. Or, as Bob Battams just put it, "Folk bands are a dime a dozen these days, but this band's hotness factor lies in their ability to make a semi-tired genre sound fresh and beautiful again." (He listed the band fourth on his list of the hottest Canadian bands of 2009.) The voices---three men and one stunning female vocalist---are a key part of the band's sound. Guitar, ukulele, banjo, cello, bass, and a variety of percussion instruments round things out.

Here's my favourite track, "Evening." This song was originally written by lead man Will Whitwham's mother. (Her version, recorded in the 1960s, is included on the EP, too):

Download: The Wilderness of Manitoba, "Evening" (Hymns of Love and Spirits, 2009).

Look for a Wilderness of Manitoba full length in 2010. In the meantime, grab yourself a copy of the EP from CDBaby (or, if you're in Toronto, from Criminal Records, Soundscapes, or Sonic Boom) or download it from iTunes. (Look out for it on Zunior soon.) You won't regret it.

For more on the band, see the UK's Line of Best Fit, blogTO, and Shawn Clarke's two part interview here and here.Photo credit: Chromewaves' Frank Yang captured the band at a recent show at the Garrison in Toronto. From left: Stefan Banjevic, Will Whitwham, Sean Lancaric (behind the drum kit), Melissa Dalton, and Scott Bouwmeester.

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