Review- “Measures of Progress”- Wool on Wolves

reviewed by Michael Thomas

Every early December, I start to put some thought into my year-end “best of” lists, and these past two years there has been a consistent pattern of one album sneaking in super late. They are usually albums released late in the year, in October or November. In 2010, it was Diamond Rings’ Special Affections. In 2011, it was Rich Aucoin’s We’re All Dying To Live. This year, it may very well be Measures of Progress, the sophomore album from Edmonton band Wool on Wolves.

I’ve found myself mentally comparing this album with the brilliant Long Distance Runners album Tracks. Both it and this album are wonderfully unpredictable and obviously feature some strong creative talent. In the case of Wool on Wolves, this creativity seems to come from the band’s egalitarian approach to songwriting. Every band member has equal say and influence on how a song will shape.

The result is an album that will likely reveal something new every time one listens. Each song is its own creature, usually filled with dramatic builds and melodic changes. What can start as a soft song with just an acoustic guitar and keys can suddenly morph into a song with a full backup choir and triumphantly passionate vocals (the song “Medicine Shows”).

To show how things can change so quickly: the first two songs “Unsuspecting Ways” and “Midnight Avenue.” The former is the longest song on the album, just over six minutes, and slowly adds to itself as it goes along. First some guitar, followed by some keys, then some screeching of strings. It calms down a little as the vocals start to come in, but then becomes even more intense nearer to the five-minute mark. This song is contrasted sharply by “Midnight Avenue” that is, to use just a word, funky. It’s got a wonderful bass groove, a guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place in a Police tune, and great interspersion of horns.

There is so much more to discover in Measures of Progress, of course. There’s the epic strings in “Inside the Light.” There’s the Bend Sinister-esque opening to “Be the Change” that eventually gives way to a bass-heavy jam halfway through. What starts with the refreshing sounds of a banjo give way to sheer badassery in “There is a Love, There is a Life.”

But like all good things, the album must come to an end, and “Darkest Hour” certainly feels like one. It’s easy just to feel the intensity of the album wind down into a nice combination of guitar, keys and some simple drumming.

To play off the album title a bit: Wool on Wolves is progressing well. Get it via Bandcamp.

Top Tracks: “Midnight Avenue”; “Medicine Shows”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) +*swoop*

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