Wave 21 have been doing some amazing things since their initial formation north of the Canadian-American border, but in their new album Brace Yourself, their focus turns toward channeling shades of a Bakersfield sound abandoned by many of their contemporaries. Right off the bat in “My Latest Song for You,” it becomes pretty obvious that this group wasn’t interested in making a conventional Canadian rock LP in this record, but instead something with a definitively American flavor in its bones. From “Stay the Night” to “The White Wings of an Angel,” this is an album that has a lot in common with the best Nashville has to offer.
The lead single “Why Does It Happen” is actually one of the tamer songs on the LP, but it isn’t lacking in musical moxie where it counts. Even controlled tracks like this one, the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and “Stay the Night” have a certain rebelliousness to their swing that that isn’t lost in the tempered delivery of their lyrics, and this is largely because of the emotion Wave 21 are pouring into the material. This isn’t a bar band trying to burn through as many cover tunes as they can in a single night, and that’s evident from the start of Brace Yourself.
Listen to Brace Yourself below
Throughout this tracklist, I found the guitar parts to be a key focal point for the audience around almost every turn. They support angelic harmonies in “Long May You Love” as brilliantly as they do the Steve Hill-featured grooves in “Way Far Back” and “Whenever You’re Near.” Aside from “All Over & Over,” in which Sam Roberts Band steals much of the show, the string play is reason enough to get into any one of the songs here, if not the sound Wave 21 have made their own over these past few years.
Brace Yourself is probably Wave 21’s slickest record yet, but I also think it’s their most openly countrified. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the lead single “Why Does It Happen” developed a presence on the American country charts, but as much as I appreciate the bucolic influences here, the underlying rock themes are never completely out of view. This has been an interesting time in the history of the Canadian underground and provided they stick to the present path they’re on in 2021, I don’t see any reason why Wave 21 won’t continue to be one of the more respected acts in their scene.