James Mercer seems to have sneakily released a new Shins album recently, only for some reason he’s released it under under the name Wiretree.
While that somewhat of an exaggeration, the bloodline of many great US indie pop artists flows in the veins of Wiretree. Acoustic guitar strums alongside soft, gosh darn pretty electric melodies and everything is very hummable. The lyrics are comfortably wordy but not overly so to give them the best balance between feeling like you’re reading something important and still being able to nutshell it into catchy little lines. Wiretree, and their de facto leader Kevin Peroni, share their musical endeavours with a reputable company, and what’s clear from Get Up—their fourth release—is that they’re getting ready to attempt trying to hit the big leagues where their compatriots lie. The earlier albums albums had very much the sound of a bedroom project: a little lo-fi, a little wet behind the ears, the sort of thing that would largely be played to small audiences of people who had never heard of the group before. Get Up, in comparison, sounds like the first true step outside the house and into the bigger world. It’s a little slicker, though not much and certainly not in a bad way, and more confident in how it presents itself. The style of the music hasn’t changed much but the difference in feel between Get Up and its earlier siblings is easy to notice.
The only thing that really lets Get Up down is that it doesn’t have that One Big Song (or more, preferably) that would help it to jump all the way up to the higher tiers. Wiretree are trying, though, and the closest they get here is “To the Moon”, tucked near the end of the album: At five and a half minutes it’s almost colossal compared to the rest of its comrade songs, and the emotional heights it pulls and the sonic twists it takes raise it head above the rest of the album. It’s a very, very fine song, an elegantly melancholy strummer that finally explodes in crashing rock-outs and soaring guitar solos. The rest of Get Up is largely good too, from “Marching Band”’s short and sweet sing-along chirpiness to the shuffling “Doctor” and sparser mood pieces like “When You Were Young”, with the only genuinely weaker points being the few more raucous songs where Wiretree try to be a power pop band and never quite do it convincingly. There are plenty of sweet melodies and lovely vocal harmonies to cherish throughout the ten songs, but it doesn’t feel like Wiretree are using them as strongly as they could.
Given time, though, playing through Get Up starts to feel like an enjoyable way to spend time. It’s far from one of the top most memorable albums of the year but it manages to hit that spot where it still feels worthwhile to put on even if it’s not the strongest thing you could listen to. Peroni’s voice and sense of melody are highly enjoyable and the occasional moment where they truly shine are worth going through. They’re not quite there yet, but Wiretree haven taken their first major step towards a bigger world – maybe next time they’ll reach it.