Canadian country rock juggernaut Wave 21 have been lighting up the indie music airwaves with their new self-titled album, and from one corner of North America to the next critics and fans alike have been abuzz over what has become a sleeper contender for album of the year. Wave 21 are a modern country outfit that doesn’t take labels or categorization so seriously that their craft ends up fitting into the standard, boxy pop format. Their take no prisoners attitude and dedication to originality is fueling a momentum that at this moment feels and looks unstoppable, and while 2018 has seen a lot of exciting new talent rising to the surface, there’s something defiantly special about this record and what it means for the ancient style it reinvents.
Nashville has been waiting for a band as organically fresh as Wave 21 for a long while now. Over the course of the last ten years, country music has seen a steady decline in viable output as the aging icons of its brand have faded into the past and the artists who have taken their place have largely avoided trying unestablished formulas. A subsequent commercial and critical depression has led some of the genre’s most diehard fans to wonder if there was anyone around to keep this music and its ethos alive. Wave 21 are answering a lot of prayers with this record by not only reimagining old-fashioned country music narratives but also by incorporating a number of external influences that make their sound intensely relevant to pop music’s current shapelessness.
Wave 21 is driven by its star single and opening track “Ya Ya Ya,” which I personally consider to be one of the hottest country pop songs that I’ve listened to in a very, very long time. It’s an instant hit for a band that didn’t have much name recognition outside of their native Canada, and the exact type of song that this record needed to be taken seriously in the established Billboard circles. This band has a lot of swing in their beats but not in a plastic Taylor Swift kind of way. Their melodies come straight from the heart of a long night spent grinding away on an acoustic guitar by candlelight – a far cry from the hollow walls of a Los Angeles recording studio.
Whether you’re a lifelong country music fan or just a casual listener, Wave 21 is a record that isn’t difficult to connect with and find something to appreciate in. We’re living in a very volatile time in the history of pop; a time when experimentation and open-minded songwriting is the only thing keeping the flame of authentic music alive. Wave 21 know how important their role in history is, and if you believe in the awesome power of music to influence the direction of an entire culture, I have a feeling you’re going to be able to see why critics like myself are anointing this band with the hefty praise that we are today.