Growing up in rural Ontario didn’t afford me many opportunities for live music. What little options there were amounted to mostly terrible punk rock or screamo, though occasionally a band would roll into town to make the night out worth it. Wintersleep made their name touring relentlessly across the country, including my podunk little town, building a devoted fanbase. Going from that to opening for Sir Paul McCartney is surely a sign that they’ve “made it.”
New Inheritors marks some changes for the band. It’s their first album without founding bassist Jud Haynes, and their first with Mike Bigelow, former utility player and member of Holy Fuck. Previous albums were known for their darkness and cryptic subject matter, but as the comparatively light ‘Weighty Ghost’ has been their biggest hit so far, a shift toward a more optimistic direction wasn’t unexpected. I initially found this newfound optimism a bit disconcerting, particularly when I heard the words “Happiness: it’s all around you” repeated in ‘Mirror Matter’. For the most part, subject matter hasn’t changed, after all, how cheery can a song called ‘Blood Collection’ be? But this noticeably lighter tone, along with the unexpected horn and string sections, was rather jarring on first listen. Where was the Wintersleep I knew and loved?
‘Echolocation’ played a big part in settling me down. The combination of bat imagery and winding guitars brings me to a familiar place. Songs like ‘Blood Collection’, ‘Mausoleum’, and ‘Baltic’ allow the band to cut loose and play to their strengths, while ‘Terrible Man’, ‘Preservation’, and ‘Mirror Matter’, a trio of songs at the end of the album, seem like something from a completely different band. At times I’m not sure what New Inheritors wants to be. Welcome to the Night Sky felt unified; a relentlessly upbeat song like ‘Archaeologists’ could lead into something like ‘Dead Letter and the Infinite Yes’ and not skip a beat. Here, the poppy, upbeat tracks clash with instead of complement the darker, more extended rockers. It’s an album I desperately want to love, but right now New Inheritors feels disjointed and a little off.