It’s really easy to fall in love with the North American underground right now, and if you’re keeping up with Canada’s own Wave 21 at the moment, you already know exactly what I’m talking about. The formerly insular Canadian circuit has been producing smashing content from the likes of Wave 21 for several years now, but the band’s new record Brace Yourself is probably the biggest testament to their scene yet. Purged of stylistic entanglements with their contemporaries and American influences alike, Brace Yourself – I would argue – is this band’s most Canadian sound thus far.

Rather than pilfering Americana in lead single “Why Does It Happen,” a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” “Stay the Night,” or “My Latest Song for You,” there’s an Albertan country croon that accompanies every beat in this tracklist. The folkier parts of the music – such as the harmonies in “Long May You Love” – dance with the rocking componentry of “All Over & Over (w/ Sam Roberts Band)” and “Way Far Back” boldly.

Every element we might assume to be contradictory to the foundations of this band’s sound ends up being a pivotal point of creative alignment in Brace Yourself, leading me to view this record as more of a transition piece than even a proper LP.

Short (33 min.), sweet, and simplified to such a point that a lot of longtime fans might be a little underwhelmed with what they’re getting here, I do believe Wave 21’s Brace Yourself is more accessible and daring than 2018’s self-titled album was, and it’s only going to get better for their sound from here. They’re not restrained by other influences and creative limitations their contemporaries would be imprisoned by, and if they keep chipping away at the unconventional, they’re going to develop a sound no one else can compete with on either side of the border.

Sebastian Cole