"Who are you listening to?" my partner asked as she entered the room.

"Oakridge Avenue," I replied.

"Oh," she said, sounding surprised. "Really?"

If the members of Oakridge Ave. (web link) set out to break paradigms and surprise fans familiar with the Kingston band's blues-rock repertoire, they've succeeded superbly with Wind Up/Let Go.

Not only does the tight ten-track album offer an unexpected departure from what had been their signature sound—thanks, in part, to producer Hawksley Workman—but it presents the work of four exceptional musicians who may finally be coming into their own as a band; recognizing and realizing their pop-rock potential, and owning it.

Released September 15, 2023, Wind Up/Let Go also underscores Hawksley Workman's skill as a producer. He's helmed some pivotal albums by Tegan & Sara, Serena Ryder, Hey Rosetta! and other top Canadian acts when they were still "emerging." With Oakridge Ave. on Wind Up/Let Go, Workman has seemingly taken the individual ingredients of the band's traditional recipe and remixed them to bring out different and altogether delicious flavours.

"I hadn't produced a record in about ten years, so I went into (the recording of Wind Up/Let Go) wanting to work as hard as I could, and I feel like the proof is in the pudding," explained Workman. "The record is great! I asked the band to write the best songs they've ever written—no compromises— and I feel they did that."

The album's magic apparently comes from the serendipity of opportunity meeting preparation. "(Oarkridge Ave. were) straddling a bar-band-meets-new-wave-British-indie-band, and I thought, if we could just push the complex songwriting and (make) a guitar album that was really innovative…" explained Workman in an exclusive interview. "It just seemed like the band were ready to do something interesting."

Overall, Wind Up/Let Go draws its creative inspiration more from 80s synth-pop than from the guitar-driven funk and blues of previous Oakridge Ave. records, most notably 2020's Ian Blurton-produced Endless Nights. What's been dialled up is the band's vocal harmonies, annoyingly memorable melodies, and head-bopping rhythms. Mature listeners will find the album oozes a delightful retro nostalgia, which younger listeners will undoubtedly find fresh and novel.

The opener, Naked Apes, is "…an effortless British dance-punk-pop ditty, with… such a great energy," in Workman's words. "It became emblematic of the overall spirit (of Wind Up/Let Go). It had all the creative touchstones that made it feel like, 'Yes!' This is a guidepost or a talisman for where this sound is going."

The second track, Sunburn, co-written by Workman and lead singer Sean Patterson, is the summer groove that belonged on my 1986 mixtape. The song's richly layered synth and guitar riffs accented by SDSV-esque drum fills and catchy harmonies would've fit nicely between Level 42 and El Debarge.

Like a great appetizer, Arrow quickly layers up to deliver a short and punchy power-pop payoff that, when it abruptly ended shy of the three minute mark, left me wanting more. The main course gets served between tracks four and seven, with Late Breakfast for Crows being particularly notable, not only for the lyric that provides the album's title, but for its "British-indie-band-meets-progressive-rock" sound, as Workman described, that's the hallmark of Wind Up/Let Go.

The album's hidden gem is Wonder If You Know, written and sung by Joe Kenny, which could fit just as well on The Cure's Disintegration as it does the denouement for Wind Up/Let Go, which finishes strong with another stand-out track, Night Drive. "I just love that mix, I love the intensity. I love Harrison's snare… it's really a beauty, front-to-back," remarked Workman.

While the significance of Wind Up/Let Go in propelling Oakridge Ave. to new heights remains to be seen, Workman seems optimistic. "I think they've gotta continue doing what they're doing. They've got the work ethic. They've got the tunes. It's about the intensity and intention, and believing that it's gonna work for you."

Photo by Virginia Meeks (web link) Posted: Sep 18, 2023
In this Article Artist(s) Hawksley Workman, Oakridge Ave.