It took a slight bit more than five years after The Inside Room for Wider than the Sky to be released. Many things have happened in the short span of time and, possibly for some, a fair bit of anticipation has built for 40 Watt Sun’s second album.
From the opening notes of “Stages”, the first thing that anyone will most likely notice is that the album has a “stripped back” sound. This is only on the surface though, as the album still has a great amount of weight, as well as a similar sparse, minimalist playing that was part of what drove the sound of The Inside Room (as well as Warning’s Watching From a Distance). Whilst not being as dynamic as it would suggest, having reduced the distortion has allowed a greater amount of breathing space between the notes and through the beat than on the prior album.
Furthermore to this, the reduced distortion allows William Spong’s bass and Christian Leitch’s percussion to become a more prominent part of the music. It’s much easier to see where they both fit in, as well as how their decision to not overplay helps strengthen the foundation and structure of the songs. Along with the reduced distortion, the songs gain more depth and breadth, allowing 40 Watt Sun more freedom to work with melodic tones.
Patrick Walker’s voice and lyrics has always been a “love it or hate it” element of the music he’s made. You’ll either find them poignant, thoughtful, introspective and poetic, or you won’t. However, it’s hard to deny that he does put in a strong effort. His delivery never falters, singing his words with great conviction, adding extra melodies that seem to sit above the music without taking anything away and his lyrics, whilst seemingly downbeat, don’t feel as such. They do have weight, but they aren’t mired in misery, feeling more as though they are about aspects of life and living.
Wider than the Sky is an album that shows not only Patrick Walker’s continuing growth as a songwriter, but the improvement of a group of musicians as they further improve on each other. The songs might sound simple, but they most likely wouldn’t work as well as they do had they been handled by a different group.
It’s difficult to express with words alone as to how this album works as the sum of its parts. Even if the album run-time is a detractor for you (about sixty-two minutes), Wider than the Sky is worth experiencing.