My first exposure to Wool and Howl was at one of the many dimly lit venues in their hometown of Toronto where I picked up their 2010 self-titled album. And in the six years since they put together that release, the band has eased out of their mellow moody days and begun dabbling in more organic folk sounds with Hard Love.
It’s no surprise that those six years would mark a significant transition for the band, which had its share of lineup changes before founding member Luke Nares decided to pack it in and head off to India and the Himalayas for a break. His homecoming meant yet another series of changes for the band as he handed over lead vocals to new member Josée Wilson and added new names to the roster, including cellist Charlotte Moore, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Jones and percussionist Kevin Wilson.
It’s obvious what influence all those changes have had on the band as it kicks off Hard Love with a 30-second snippet urging listeners to follow their instincts and passion—a rooting ideology that likely hints to the sort of drive that kept Wool and Howl in operation all these years, and brought Nares back to songwriting after his great escape.
Wilson immediately owns her newfound role on vocals, offering a charming lead on “Colour and Detail” as the richness of the added instrumentals gives weight to her words. There’s an allusion to Wool and Howl’s digital youth as titular “Hard Love” opens, but it’s all Wilson powering through a fast-paced country-infused rock song once it gets going.
Nares reappears for the back-and-forth ballad of “Cold Feet,” as he and Wilson step gingerly towards each other—a notable slow number that stands in contrast with the other five songs due to both its pace and the mesmerizing melancholy holding the lovers back.
There’s a strong country vibe to “Die In Those Eyes,” as strings twang and fingers strike the notes out in time with a furious tapping. But it’s the bridge in round that makes the song, and brings you back for another listen just to hear the build up again.
Closer sees Nares back on the mic for a modern indie spin, crying out “Youth is wasted on the young” with the aged awareness that certainly comes with a history like Wool and Howl’s. Living up to its name, Hard Love is full of experience and knowledge gained through change—wearied, but wiser and all the more ready to take on the world because of it.
Top Track: “Die In Those Eyes”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)