reviewed by Michael Thomas
I still can’t think of another musician or act that sounds more natural than Brett Wildeman. Perhaps that’s because his devotion to nature is a huge part of both his life and in music. Whatever his secret is, few albums flow like his; each song on the album is instantly endearing, warm, inviting, playful, fleeting. He calls himself a “guitar strummer” and while guitar is an important anchor to his music, the gentleness of his vocals (and those of his guest vocalists) and the more subtle instrumental flourishes make this new album gorgeous from beginning to end.
Wildeman wrote this album about time, and how we choose to spend it. He has an almost Buddhist sensibility about this, recognizing that there are few constants in the world and that time is only as good as how we spend it. Couple this almost-spirituality with a minimalist recording session in the mountains and you have The Tools We Possess.
Even the opener, the one-minute instrumental “Hello,” is warm and sets the tone for what’s to come. From that point onward, Wildeman sings of time in various ways. In “Young Dreaming,” a song steeped in old-fashioned folk music with little Midi flourishes, Wildeman sings about not worrying about tomorrow and focusing on the here and now. The upbeat “Kate’s Song” is about a specific time, of meeting a brown-eyed girl on the dancefloor and having what sounds like a truly magical time.
There’s more musical exploration in “60,” with patches of psychedelic guitars. At the beginning, Wildeman says “Time is only a number, money is an imaginary thing.” Instruments float in and out of the song like a dream.
“Coffee Song” is perhaps the best song on the album for the various little and big changes it makes throughout. At the beginning, Wildeman is singing faster than he does in the rest of the song. Bright piano opens the song and the percussion is impossible to not clap along to. As it moves on, the refrain brings in a ukulele and some bass. Things get a bit gentler with “Silver Lining,” in which Wildeman promises “Wherever you take me, I’ll go for a while.”
Previously written-about song “Simple Song” remains as devastating as ever, and a different simple song ends the album on a relaxed note. “The Light” is about the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel and a light in your lover’s eye. It’s an optimistic way to end, and really just brings the album’s warmth full circle. When you’ve finally released all your life’s baggage and record an album, it just might sound as soothing as The Tools We Possess.
Top Tracks: “Coffee Song”; “Simple Song”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*