Esmé Patterson: We Were Wild

Photo: Daniel Topete

The Denver folk-rocker rebels against modern-day domestication on her latest.

Esmé Patterson

We Were Wild

Label: Grand Jury
US Release Date: 2016-06-10
UK Release Date: 2016-06-10
Artist website

After unraveling popular stories in song and telling them from a refreshed perspective in 2015’s defiant Woman to Woman, Esmé Patterson is already back at it again barely a year later with We Were Wild. The differences between it and the previous year’s concept album are crystalline straight from the start. We Were Wild isn’t a second volume of Woman to Woman, featuring a variety of other songs retold from the viewpoints of established profiles in pop music like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” or Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Instead, Patterson has readjusted the focus back on herself.

Through her own struggles to shift things back to her own perception after analyzing other artists’ songs so intently on her previous release, she has absolutely made a comeback worthy of celebration. Perhaps We Were Wild could still be called a concept album in a myriad of ways both obvious and not-so-obvious, too. Right away, Patterson embraces the unhinged and undomesticated on the deliciously wily opener, “Feel Right”, which seems to set the tone for an album centered on reminding humanity of its animalistic origins and primal instinct. This thought alone brings a particular irony to Patterson’s choice of cover art for the album, and helps emphasize the sheer strangeness of the rehearsed behavior of humankind as it has developed for itself to follow in the modern world.

It becomes more clear as this perception of the album progresses why Woman to Woman was recorded in a day, while We Were Wild focused on the better portion of a year to fully develop. Returning from the deeply analytical world of retelling popular tales and edging into something more personal can not only be a struggle in regards to a thematic readjustment, but when one successfully achieves just that, the additional time spent to craft a more fully-developed sound in order to sonically relay the groundwork comes across as admirable on Patterson’s part and rewarding to the ears of her audience.

Luckily enough, it’s not just the sound quality that comes across as lush and vibrant on Patterson’s latest. As always, from a vocal perspective, her world-weariness and memorable tone are only topped by an inimitable charm that makes it no wonder as per how she succeeded as the frontwoman for Paper Bird and a recurring duet partner alongside Shakey Graves. Whether she finds herself dealing with the rocking, rollicking edges of her album as with the aforementioned mover-and-shaker, “Feel Right” or “Come and See Me”, or she’s crooning delicately across a countrified ballad like the infectious “Wantin Ain’t Getting”, she knows her way around her voice and her music as well as any pro.

Those who know their way around Esmé Patterson’s growing catalog know to never question her quality. Even then, it’s always a great feeling to happen upon the artist’s next work only to discover that, in a variety of ways, it’s collectively better than her last. Few are as consistently great as Patterson is, and she's still on a rising scale of quality after having already paid her dues with numerous outstanding projects. We Were Wild is wildly good.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.