Like Cowboy Junkies and Iron & Wine, Great Lake Swimmers made such a strong impression with their atmospheric, minimalist early songs that it’s been easy to underestimate how good the band became once it started filling out their sound. In the mid-’00s, Tony Dekker’s band of Canadian folkies caught fans of soft indie music by surprise with the song “Moving Pictures, Silent Films,” a soft, echoing ballad that hung wispily, like mist over a mountain brook. But with 2009’s more muscular Lost Channels and now Great Lake Swimmers’ fifth LP, New Wild Everywhere, Dekker has been proving that there are more ways to spin a mood than just recording every song at a hush.
Sounding at times like a more lush, polished Will Oldham (or like Lambchop served with a thick hunk of Bread), New Wild Everywhere favors medium tempos over slow drip, and a rich weave of strings, acoustic picking, and airy harmonies over sparseness. Granted, the sounds don’t always hold up to intense scrutiny. The plunky, simplistic “The Knife” comes off more like children’s music than mature pop, while songs like “Changes With The Wind” are more surface-y than satisfying. But Great Lake Swimmers’ mix of clean, ’70s-style country rock with Old World European grace is never less than inviting, and it becomes downright sublime on the swaying, pulsing “Think That You Might Be Wrong,” where a cowboy waltz meets low-boil R&B, male and female voices intertwine, and elegantly swooping strings and fuzztone guitar enter into a conversation that’s bound to end in accord.