Unlike their band name, there is little about the sadly sweet music that Toronto-based folk/Americana trio Wild Rivers turn in that comes across as wild. On Sidelines, their latest effort is a seamless continuation from 2020’s impressive Songs To Break Up To. Across 10 tracks, the band offer a mix of deeply enjoyable harmonies mixed into melancholy vocals.
Two-thirds of the band – Khalid Yassein (guitar, vocals, keys) and Devan Glover (vocals) – met at college in Kingston, Ontario, and Sidelines finds the band merging into that post-school world of their mid-20s rife with potential and uncertainty. As a result, a bulk of the songs here find the band looking back on their childhood with a degree of romanticized nostalgia. “A lot of (Sidelines) is about perspective and longing to be somewhere that you’re not or trying to figure out how to get to a place that you want to be, whether it’s physically, emotionally,” said Devan. “I think we’re all kind of struggling with our sense of identity, in the stage of life that we’re in.”
It’s apparent from the opening track, “More Or Less,” a slow build that confronts that nostalgia head on, talking about best friends, first loves and video stores all fading into the past. Across a steady drumbeat, the music eventually builds and swells with a beautifully harmonious chorus that perfectly highlights the charms of Wild Rivers. Even singing about loss and things left behind, the band manages to do so with enough beauty and earnestness to keep you listening.
Wild Rivers co-produced the album alongside Peter Katis, an inspired choice behind records by The National and Sharon van Etten, but the sound here is still very much in keeping with their last couple of albums. They dip slightly into indie pop territory on Sidelines (like on “Stubborn Heart” and “Weatherman”), but still stick close to their folk instincts. The record closes on the acoustic downer “Safe Flight,” another slice of beautiful melancholy.