The Wooden Sky’s Swimming In Strange Waters is true to its namesake, submerging listeners in a psychedelic-inspired, indie folk-rock journey. The title of this LP, a nod to Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel, Dune, is a play on the line, “Survival is the ability to swim in strange water.” But does The Wooden Sky swim or merely tread water with their latest release?

Swimming In Strange Waters immediately tosses listeners face-first into a sea of synth, organ, drums, strings, and distorted vocals. Before hearing the album, I was informed that it was written in part as a rallying cry against the Keystone Pipeline XL in Canada. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have figured that out from just listening. Even in songs with semi-obvious titles like “Black Gold,” words are often hard to decipher, between the layered vocal effects and singer Gavin Gardiner’s southern drawl. The influence of classic country is evident but definitely caught me off guard because TWS is from Toronto. I was not expecting a whole lot of ‘twang!’

Even so, Swimming In Strange Waters offered no shortage of magical moments. For me, the chorus of “You’re Not Alone” resonated above all—a glorious moment where hauntingly-triumphant pizzicato strings break through, in stark juxtaposition to Gardiner’s sad, wandering voice. I also really enjoyed “Glory Hallelujah,” the symphonic album closer that showcases cinematic piano and strings you’d expect to hear in the final scene of an old western.

Overall, Swimming In Strange Waters does a great job of showcasing the talent and varied sounds of The Wooden Sky. However, as a whole, it felt disjointed — predominantly held together only by Gardiner’s melancholy and crooning voice. There is definitely a story being told here, but I am not certain I was able to glean the deeper meaning. If you’re a fan of indie or folk, I’d definitely recommend giving this album a spin to see for yourself. This band has a lot of talent and there’s something here for everyone. Besides, the only way to find out if this is the album for you is to take the plunge into Strange Waters

Swimming In Strange Waters Track Listing:

01. Swimming in Strange Waters
02. Life is Pain, Pain is Beauty
03. You’re Not Alone
04. Deadhorse Creek
05. Born to Die
06. Black Gold
07. Riding on the Wind
08. Matter of Time
09. Glory Hallelujah

Run Time: 38:18
Release Date: April 7, 2017

Check out “Swimming In Strange Waters” by The Wooden Sky