A year after winning Vancouver Island’s Play Tall Tree contest, Year of the Wolf are out with their first full-length album. Begun as a duo in early 2012 by Kyle Vaughan and Chad Gilmour—two former Ottawans who only met once they decamped to the west coast—the band started gathering members, first with drummer James Jeffrey and then bassist Carson Webber, while Chelsea Burden finalized the band a little over a year later.
The added players have brought their own layers to the music. Jeffrey plows through titular “As If We Are Sinking,” filling it with infectious energy, while Burden’s vocals add depth to the tracks. And with Vaughan and Gilmour sharing the vocals, Year of the Wolf is richer, if harder to define, as the band moves between country-folk and rock-heavy indie pop.
There’s a noticeably shift towards those folk leanings with “Can Change,” before the rolling rhythm of “Thunder and Lightning” races in as a wholly modern, wholly catchy country switch.The album takes a break from its versatile—but eminently danceable—sounds only twice, on ballad “As If We Are Sinking” and closer “Tools of the Devil,” two tracks from opposite ends of the album, but sharing the band’s impetus for “honesty and integrity.”
It may have taken Year of the Wolf five years to put out their first full-length release, but it’s clear that this is a group that’s happy to wait for the slow build, and what it can bring.
Top Tracks: “As If We Are Sinking”; “Thunder and Lightning”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)