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Middle Sister – Cries of the Wild – Album Review

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Middle Sister’s Cries of the Wild highlights the poignancy and hardworking musicianship of modern baroque pop artists whilst infusing the ever-loved and ever-lasting keystone elements of folk music. The group name, Middle Sister, is borrowed from an island on the Canadian side of Lake Erie and not a tribute to the Jan Brady ethos. Aptly titled, the record is alive with the sound of nature and the vibe of Canadian ecology.

Fronted by Colin Wysman, the Windsor based five-piece is Kaitlyn Kelly, Dave Dubois, Nate Gelinas and Stu Kennedy. They play comprehensive folk rock songs that tell stories both through lyrical content and musical arrangement. The record was produced and recorded at Sharktank Productions in Windsor, Ontario by Mark Plancke and mastered by Stu McKillop at Rain City Recorders in Vancouver, BC. The instrumentation on Cries of the Wild includes, but is not limited to, tonally pleasing electric and cosy acoustic guitars, driving bass and percussion, playful piano, emotional violin and outspoken mandolin melodies.

“The Devil in the Song” starts the album off with a strong statement, four-part vocal harmonies followed up by heavy rolling drums and dissonant guitar. It’s a big folk sound, silver-lined with indie rock tendencies. The sound is redolent of a less-angsty mewithoutYou, curious but with enough aggression to create an edge. “I Want to Be the Man” shreds some gnarly guitar riffs interspersed between the vocal harmonies, combined with some effects makes for a perfectly perverted rock-folk sound. The title track “Cries of the Wild” begins with plucky finger picking and ends with a haunting vocal arrangement, that sounds like the voices of the trees themselves. “Rosasharn” is a catchy and buoyant tune, befitting of radio play on a pop rock station without hesitation. Halfway through the album “The Corrido” interlude straddles the record, it builds anticipation and gives the ears a little rest and a Dixie cup of water. I’m always a fan of a good interlude. Afterwards “Finer Things” eases the listener back into the album with a reassuring pat on the back, but nothing overly impressive or surprising. “One for the Road” is my favourite track off the album. With a unique vocal sound and hardworking guitar crunch, it’s contagious and creative, forgiving and concise, classically Canadian. The band strips away everything except for six strings and one set of vocal chords for “The Diplomat”. The song is the acoustic equivalent of a nice day with a warm sun on a calm lake: relaxing and familiar. “Tongue of Silver” gets back to the folk roots with string sounds and choral-esque singing. Commercially viable but still substantially stimulating, it could easily be on a Mumford and Sons or Noah and the Whale album. “The Devil (Reprise)” is like combing the beach after a big storm. Coming to terms with what just happened, while you search for the treasures that have been stirred up and left behind. Purely instrumental, Middle Sister finishes the album with a stamp of their own, no gimmicks, and no cop-outs, just a solid tune.

Middle Sister manages to keep their sound intimate but still huge, organic and contemporary, cool and catchy. In the same musical vein as a band like Of Monsters and Men without the mainstream success, Middle Sister should be playing to the same crowds and could be the next big thing in Canadian folk music with some incessant touring and heavy promotion. The album Cries of the Wild and its brand of chamber pop give you something different to focus on with every listening; even though there are many voices the sound still feels personal. The homogeneous mix of folk and rock provides the best of both worlds with the downfalls of neither.

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Griffin Elliot

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