The Wild Reeds have ventured down a completely new aural pathway with their recent release, Cheers. Previously relying on sumptuous folk sounds, the Los Angeles based quintet shift towards a decidedly brassier, charged indie pop-rock gusto. Acknowledging and praising the risk inherent in shifting creative direction, Cheers ultimately hovers around the inconsistent mark. With three lead singer-songwriters, Cheers is an amalgamation rather than a coherent album.
Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva are the album’s songwriting triumvirate. Honing in on their unparalleled experiences and songwriting visions, each band member was given the creative space to compose and orchestrate their own songs. In the Wild Reeds’ press bio, Howe places value on their individuality as the foundation for the band’s unification. She comments, “…you often have to do your best to tame your differences and come to some sort of agreement writing-wise, sonically, stylistically. It was the first time we said, ‘Screw that, why don’t we just record the songs the way they should be done?'” In this way, it is necessary to praise the Wild Reeds for taking creative risks and subverting the standard singer-songwriter paradigm. The penchant to experiment with their style is especially apparent in the juxtaposition between the upbeat “Moving Targets” and the R&B inspired “Lose My Mind“. The latter is sonically rich providing a clear sense of the band’s musical alacrity.
Each track on Cheers is phenomenally unique. Despite a clear signifier of their creativity, the album’s musical variances spawn a rupture. “A Way to Stop” and “Giving Up on You‘s” vocal cacophony is incongruent with the Wild Reeds typically stunning harmonizing. There’s a dreamy vintage feel to “Lose My Mind” reminiscent of a 1990s hip-hop sample. “Play It Safe” is also retro feeling with hints of the 1960s girl-group sweetness emblematic of the Pointer Sisters. “Young & Impressionable” is the closest to the Wild Reeds’ past endeavors, however, this time with a noticeable bite. The album’s dissimilarity, specifically the lacking focal point, is Cheers’ major downfall. To reappropriate an art-world idiom, there’s no place for the ear to rest and Cheers becomes taxing. It’s impossible to adjust to the album as each track change requires listeners to reconcile the previously heard musical motifs. The Wild Reeds’ vocal harmony will draw listeners in, but the musical deviations cause a meandering scope.
Despite the sanguine title, Cheers is awash in dark and melancholic themes. Considering the standpoint of the three lead singer-songwriters, it is evident the album’s strength is developed from melding hardship into kinship. “A Way to Stop” directly confronts the insecurity caused by toxicity. Repelling noxious negativity, the Wild Reeds still desire for confidence in order to “refrain / From imagining what you think of me / It’s always insane.” “Play It Safe” undertakes a similar binary. The track toggles recklessness and caution emphasizing “the best people were mistakes conceived in the back of a Chevrolet / So you pour some love on your pain.” The Wild Reeds acknowledge the ubiquity of adversity but maintain a razor focus on letting in love and recovery.
Cheers exhibits throw-back references to the late 1990s and early 2000s culture. “Telepathic Mail” mentions “If all robots fail like Y2K” revisiting the unwarranted fear dominating the turn to the 21st century. “Giving Up on You” recalls the quaint practice of writing postcards while “Get Better” associates the quest for tranquility with being “a broken record… And I just can’t move on / All the grooves are too deep / On this same old sad song.” Here the album rings nostalgia as a way of preventing alienation and drawing familiarity between the Wild Reeds and their audience. The nostalgic references establish a positive function and are likely the band’s intentional attempt at counteracting Cheers’ thematic disunity.
The lyrical profundity recasts the Cheers‘ musical incoherence. Cheers strives to draw a connection from the Wild Reeds’ varying responses to misfortune with emotion and honesty. As such, the Wild Reeds should be applauded for redefining their sound despite Cheers’ overall dissonance.