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Hillsburn doubled down on their independent ethos for their second record, The Wilder Beyond. Deciding to forego a formal studio setting, they produced the album collectively and recorded it in singer Paul Aarntzen’s Halifax apartment. Perhaps partly as a result of the new approach, the album departs sharply from the folk-rooted sound of Hillsburn’s award-winning In The Battle Years debut. The group’s soaring three-part harmonies are intact here, but densely-layered arrangements and more electronic instruments signal a move in the direction of indie rock.
Not that the album is easy to pin down stylistically. ‘Strange Clouds,’ the guitar-driven lead track, recalls Florence + The Machine. ‘Sun Ought To Shine,’ which features the record’s standout vocal performance, draws on Motown. And ‘Time of Life,’ the closing track, could be a Neil Young song. The Wilder Beyond manages to land somewhere in the vast terrain between Aretha Franklin and Suburbs-era Arcade Fire while simultaneously sounding fresh and coherent.