Always listenable, but eminently forgettable.
Chris White 2009
Another new year and lo and behold, another hotly tipped, slightly quirky Canadian indie band hoping to emulate the success of critically-worshipped compatriots Arcade Fire. In 2009, it’s Halifax, Nova Scotia residents Wintersleep who aim to deliver where others like The Acorn have failed, but unfortunately Welcome To The Night Sky is no Funeral or Neon Bible.
Released in their homeland back in 2007 and helping the group win Canada’s prestigious Juno Awards Best New Group of 2008, Wintersleep’s third album is by no means a bad record, but it is crying out for an identity of its own to lift it above the merely proficient.
Shifting uneasily between an REM-lite folk-pop jangle, Mars Volta-style epic noodling and quintessentially North American country-rock, the six piece struggle to settle on a distinctive sound, and the song writing just isn’t strong enough to overcome a general lack of originality and direction.
Wintersleep’s case isn’t helped by front man Paul Murphy’s weak, reedy vocals, which hover blandly over proceedings throughout. Musically, they’re certainly accomplished, notably on opener Drunk On Aluminium’s well-constructed quiet/loud dynamics, while Dead Letter and The Infinite Yes wouldn’t sound out of place on Counting Crows greatest hits compilation.
But it’s only on one track – the catchy campfire spiritual Weighty Ghost – that Wintersleep manage to cast off their many influences and sound truly like themselves. Elsewhere, Welcome To The Night Sky is always listenable, but eminently forgettable. The title of the final track proper, Miasmal Smoke & The Yellow Bellied Freaks, is sadly much more interesting than the composition itself, and two UK bonus tracks – Ultra Violet and How You Gonna Lie – bring little new to the party.