Pleasant, catchy, and incredibly satisfying.
Now three albums in and seven musicians deep, this Austin-based outfit has proven that its “indie darlings” status is no transient title. With Fools (2015), Wild Child builds on the infectious “indie-pop yet folksy but we reject labels” sound of Pillow Talk (2011) and The Runaround (2013) while also reflecting a natural evolution of the band’s musical direction. Gone are the stripped-down “uke and voice” tunes of Pillow Talk; in their place are a variety of tracks that effuse the same “feel-good” sentiment, but now with a more balanced effort that highlights the full range of instruments used by this septet (think: Bon Iver‘s evolution from For Emma, Forever Ago to Bon Iver, Bon Iver). However, veteran Wild Child fans need not worry: while the actual composition of the band and their music has shifted away from showcasing the Wilson-Beggins duo act, Fools is proof that the band hasn’t lost its feel for making addicting indie music.
As the opening track, “Fools” represents the album well by immediately offering up many of Fools‘ best elements: a richer instrumental sound, delightful vocals by Wilson and excellent compositional structure. The upbeat nature of “Fools” makes it a natural crowd-pleaser, but the two tracks immediately following (“The Cracks” and “Bullets“) are catchy pieces that show that slower-paced songs can also be fan favorites. “Bullets” in particular makes a strong bid for not only being the best track off the album but a career highlight for WC: it perfectly synthesizes Wilson’s vocal chops with GREAT instrumentals (how about that trumpet?!?) and great music arrangement. If there’s any track that will steer Wild Child into the mainstream ear, it’s this one – “Bullets” has all the makings of an indie hit.
Some fans might notice Fools no longer features Wilson and Beggins sharing lead vocal roles. While this reviewer in particular was a huge fan of the parallel Wilson-Beggins vocal dynamic of the past albums, most people would either not mind or notice, given Wilson’s absolutely brilliance on this album. Though she has always had a lovely and powerful voice, Wilson especially shines in this album in both its fragile moments (parts of “Break Bones”, “Reno”) and explosive ones (in “Meadows” and “Bad Girl”). Beggins’ relegation to full-time backup vocalist is perfectly executed with a few moments of glory (“Oklahoma”, “Saving Face”), but it’s Wilson who strengthens her claim as one of the better vocalists in indie music.
When it comes to the realm of calm indie-pop-folk music, it’s certainly reasonable to feel that Fools comes off as a bit cookie-cutter. It’s not a particularly pioneering piece of work and is perhaps consistent to a fault: repetitive elements of songs can make it difficult for impatient types to listen through the album on a first or second listen. But Wild Child is quite skilled at their sound; the album lacks any particular lowlights, and even the most casual indie fans are likely to find a song or two to attach themselves to.
In short: when it comes to catchy feel-good music, Wild Child is a band that just “gets” it. Even if not excessively complex or original, Fools follows the same formula for success that made Pillow Talk and The Runaround such spectacular albums.
Highlights: “Bullets”, “Break Bones”, “Fools”, “Reno”