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Album Review: The Waves, The Wake, Great Lake Swimmers


Often, when a band begins to change its music after 15 years, the results can be frustratingly futile. But for Great Lake Swimmers, its new album, The Wave, The Wake, (Nettwerk, August 2018), it is clearly the start of a new, spectacular-sounding phase in the band's lifespan.

Frontman Tony Dekker is known as another "guy with an acoustic guitar," with a solid band (and classic banjo) backing up his folk-rock sound. To branch out from the group’s typical sound, Dekker made a goal on this album to not write any songs for the acoustic guitar.

The results are mesmerizing. The release sounds like heavenly dream folk: mellow, atmospheric and transformative. It’s also fitting that the album was recorded in a 145-year-old church.

The first song on the album, “The Talking Wind,” layers woodwinds and light, flowing vocals, maximizing the ethereal quality of the recording space from the start.

  • Great Lake Swimmers
From there, the instrumentation expands to include harp, lute and pipe organ to complement the established base of banjo, piano and electric guitar.

Songs get a little more pop further into the album, such as “Unmaking the Bed,” where the staccato marimba rhythm makes it a quick candidate to put on repeat.

With such a range of instruments on the album, it would have been easy to overload each track with a wall of sound, but Dekker takes a minimal, scaled-back approach that highlights only a few sounds on each song.

The auditory nuances flirt with mellow, moving lyrics and combine for a quiet intensity that you won’t be able to get enough of.