When You Left the Fire
(Popguru Sound & Vision Ltd.; US: 29 Jun 2010; UK: Import)
The Wilderness of Manitoba fulfills the promise of last year’s well-received EP Hymns of Love & Spirits with debut full-length When You Left the Fire. The Toronto band draws influence from 1960s folk acts, but in a fresh way, as the familiar elements of the album serve to provide a pleasant context for the otherwise original and memorable arrangements. Guitars, bass and drums are augmented by ukulele, cello, lap steel, and singing bowls, but the songs never seem overcrowded. At the center of the band’s well-crafted sound are remarkable vocal harmonies and stirring lyrics that recall those of Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, reimagined as a modern folk outfit. Although final track “Reveries en Couleurs” is a bit of an overlong indulgence, When You Left the Fire is a stunner from beginning to end and should be regarded as one of the year’s best debut albums.