[Album Review] Weaves- Wide Open
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Release Date: October 6th, 2017
Buzz Records

Only a year after their Buzz Records debut, Weaves come back strong with Wide Open – a bolder sophomore effort that sees the quartet maturing and hitting their stride with their playful mix of wild garage rock and colourful pop melodies. The noisy, rough edges have been smoothed out and the feedback dialled down for a relatively straightforward collection of songs with a focused emotional undercurrent running throughout. In place of winding guitar passages and frantic drum patterns, this new album brings frontwoman Jasmyn Burke into the foreground. From cool lows to confident highs, each track showcases her impressive vocal prowess, providing exciting musical backdrops for Burke to reflect upon themes of identity and her place within this world.

Slinky, muscular verses lead to expansive, anthemic choruses where Burke can belt out the fantastic hooks found on singles “#53” and “Slicked.” The band even delivers a slow, patient ballad on the title track – an earnest, beautiful middle eight to Wide Open’s otherwise punchy, consistently heavy set of songs. Throughout the album, the grooves, be they driving and danceable or smooth and soft, truly demonstrate how air-tight Morgan Waters (guitar), Zach Bines (bass) and Spencer Cole (drums) have become. These guys are seriously locked in and performing at the top of their game, as they’ve slowly honed in on each other’s intricacies and strengths that come with performing live night after night. All three interact in subtle ways, adding textural and rhythmic variances where it counts, whether it’s the dynamic interplay of the ascending riff on “Scream” or the space left for each member to individually fill out on “Grass.”

The instrumentation also allows space for Burke to reflect upon her distinct perspective of the world around her. Moving beyond the “Birds & Bees” of their self-titled debut, Burke instead compares herself to “a panda bear avoiding extinction” on “Law and Panda.” Suspicious of the company around her, even debating her role as “a hermit or a panther,” one might glean from these comparisons a struggle of identity that Burke faces in terms of both race and gender. Themes of self-image, self-discovery and empowerment of one’s self appear on multiple tracks – “Slicked,” “Gasoline” and the inimitable, intrepid “Scream” featuring Tanya Tagaq. Burke’s lyrics bring a level of poignancy and urgency, further adding to each song’s emotional weight.

However, the album does fall short in its ability to sustain that invigorating sense of urgency, like on “Walkaway” or “Grass” (the latter resembling a middling 90s rock tune circa Jagged Little Pill). Although the punchy production threads a sonic consistency throughout Wide Open, the songwriting occasionally fails to match with predictable song structures lacking in the personality and originality of the first few tracks. Leaning more towards their pop sensibilities that are typically masked by off-kilter beats and angular riffs, Weaves play it a little too safe and come off slightly generic on the album’s deeper cuts.

For the most part, the album works, solidifying Weaves as a new, vital power player in Canadian indie rock. With their sophomore outing, the band leaves their future wide open to further expand their sound on future releases.