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