[28 April 2014]
How many artists throughout the ages have toiled countless hours in vain? Poured their blood, sweat and tears into something they could be proud of only to come up just a little short. How many songs on the cutting room floor could have been the spark needed to ignite successful music careers for aspiring musicians?
These thoughts come to mind after learning that Wild Ones debut album Keep It Safe could have easily met the same fate as so many of the forgotten projects throughout history. Since their formation in 2010, Wild Ones has been a band that has taken the do-it-yourself route, which would surely be an enticing way for a band to go so as to avoid heavy oversight the proverbial man. But often times this can lead to more than a few hiccups as a group of young, aspiring artists try to piece together an album without the help of more experienced overseers.
These factors, along with others, led to the fact that it took nearly two years for the band to write, record, and mix Keep It Safe, but from the moment the album kicks off its obvious their efforts were not wasted. The thing immediately evident on the record is the effortlessly charming vocals provided by Danielle Sullivan. The ever so slight hint of country twang gives her voice brings to mind comparisons to the Soderberg sisters of folk-duo First Aid Kit. What Sullivan is able to that the Soderberg’s have yet to accomplish is to find the range to fit into both guitar driven ballads like “18 Mile Island” to the synth heavy “Rivals” without feeling out of place on either.
Part of the maturation of a young band is to forgo personal pride and work as part for a larger group despite what you may have to sacrifice. Wild Ones, although still in its embryonic stage as a group, have all had success on their own. Guitarist Nick Vicario had already made a name for himself as a skilled guitarist within the Portland punk scene and bassist Max Stein comes from a background which includes classical music composition. What is impressive is the way these varying backgrounds come together to produce pop arrangements that are well beyond the collective years of the bands members.
Despite the obvious skill of all members of the group, it is both Sullivan and keyboardist Thomas Himes that are the driving force behind the record. Tracks like “It’s Real” and “Row” blend the two seamlessly, creating a kind of call and response that works beautifully. But as I’ve said, the skill inherent in Wild Ones is the ability to work together. The drumming throughout the album is unimaginative and barely standouts as being there at all. This is not a knock however as the steady, mundane beats work perfectly in contrast to the floating piano and synthesizer beats. Without the backdrop of a fixed beat Sullivan’s vocals could lose some of their charm and become just a little too whimsical.
Wild Ones are very lucky that Keep It Safe ever saw the light of day at all, but even more fortunate than the members of the band may be the listeners who now get a chance to enjoy their truly pleasing brand of indie pop.