Few albums in the country rock vein get off to the same exuberant start we hear on “Ya Ya Ya”. Canadian band Wave 21 kicks off their first studio release in semi-rambunctious fashion bringing thanks to the raucous manner lead guitarist Nick Rivera adorns the track with eighty proof blues rock licks, no chaser, further charging the song. The base of this tune, like the other nine on Wave 21’s debut, is acoustic in nature and the guitar playing is uniformly handled with taste and restraint. “Here We Go” leans heavily on that aforementioned acoustic base and illustrates the inherently hopeful sound Wave 21 traffic in with this release. The backing vocals featured throughout this self-titled release are a sleeper strength in the band’s toolbox thanks to the notable contrast they strike with lead vocalist and co-songwriter Mary-Lynn Doroschuk.
Mary-Lynn and her sister Emmy-Lou are the guiding creative forces behind this band, the daughters of long serving Men Without Hats producer and guitarist Stefan Doroschuk. Stefan plays bass and violin for Wave 21’s debut album, but likewise fills the role of the band’s producer. He does an exceptional job reflected in the song’s sound, but one of the album’s premier production jobs arrives with the third number “Love Shouldn’t Make Me Cry”. Nick Rivera’s bluesy wail gets things off to a potent start with, arguably, the album’s most assertive lead playing at the song’s beginning before fluidly moving into one of the best iterations of the band’s ballad style on this release. The bass playing has a number of fantastic high points. “It’ll Be One of These Days”, like the preceding tune, is one of the best songs on this album. There’s a nice cascading effect coming at critical points in the verses and the backing vocals are pure delight.
Another peak moment comes with the track “The Fun Times”. It’s arguably the album’s most adult slice of songwriting with a lively, yet knowing, vocal performance courtesy of Mary-Lynn, but the musical arrangement is equally vibrant while still invoking all of the necessary authenticity. The second’s last half is especially memorable as they ramp up the tempo without losing any of the song’s initial spirit. There’s more effective lead guitar from Nick Rivera with the effervescent love song “Come to Me”, but that doesn’t mean this is lightweight. The solid song construction defining this track is emblematic of the album as a whole. Stefan Doroschuk’s violin gives an intensely lyrical air to one of the best ballads “Catch Me” and the sisters’ songwriting shows their talent for recasting familiar sentiments into something uniquely theirs.
There isn’t another song on the album quite like “Set Me Free”. The sound is rather different compared to anything else preceding or following it, but it nonetheless hews close to the album’s songwriting spirit. Acoustic guitar has a different polish here than earlier cuts and the echo placed on Mary-Lynn’s vocal gives her voice a much different spin than before. “Far Away” ends the album and begins with a brief snippet of sound effects. When the song begins in earnest, it quickly rates as one of the best near-ballads on the album. The vocals and backing vocals, once again, help carry the dare and give this an inspiring sparkle to finish off Wave 21’s impressive debut.