Words by Josh Rocha
Earlier this month, Austin band Wild Child released their third studio album, Fools. To mark the occasion, the band held a record release party strictly “for the fans,” where the price of admission was purchasing a copy of the album. Although the event was slated during Saturday night of ACL, they packed the venue with die hard fans ready to don their traditional face paint and hear the band perform their new material, many of the songs being played live for the first time.
Whether on stage or in the studio, as usual, Wild Child manages to consistently deliver their particular brand of music in style, creating a veritable orchestra of sounds between the many multi-instrumentalists in the band (which includes, among other things, drums, bass, keyboards, voice, ukulele, violin, cello, percussion, banjo, trumpet…). We scored a copy of the release on vinyl and wanted to share our thoughts on what a great record it is--beautifully written, exceptionally recorded, and well worth the price of admission.
With every next turn on Fools comes a new opportunity to discover another side of Wild Child: fuzz-bass-driven power pop, soulful melodies over candy-coated harmonies, endearing duets reminiscent of everybody’s favorite scene from The Jerk. The upshot is that Wild Child’s third album is another step away from the Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins show on Pillow Talk (2011), and instead is a vibrant and sprawling effort by an ever-maturing band.
When Wild Child first emerged with Pillow Talk, the group’s sound was almost exclusively a showcase of Wilson and Beggins’ uncanny ability to craft music that was at the same time obsessively intimate and exceedingly playful. Then Wild Child’s sophomore release, The Runaround (2013), found the group exploring what it meant to be a band rather than simply two adorable singers backed up by a few talented musicians. With Fools, this transformation has become fully realized. Wild Child has reemerged as a full on indie-pop force.
There is one notable departure on Fools from the Austin outfit’s previous work. Beggins seems to have taken a back seat to Wilson on the bulk of the vocal heavy lifting. Occasionally, Beggins steps out from behind the wings to lend a helpful hand on tracks such as the wistful yet driving “Saving Face” or the jaunty “Bad Girl.” But most of the narrative legwork is borne by Wilson’s ever confident and powerful vocal chords--like on the head-bobber “Bullets” or the hard-hitting snapshot of a rocky relationship teetering on the brink in “Break Bones.”
That’s not to say that Wild Child’s intimate, duet-heavy roots have been thrown to the wayside. On the contrary, when Wilson and Beggins come together for a unison melody in vintage Wild Child fashion in “Stones,” the effort is more charming than ever.
There’s plenty to love on this deftly produced album. But the mark of a great record is one with a deep track worth waiting for. That track is “Reno.” In the opening line, Wilson sings Late night, driving long past the sunrise, I know you’re feeling it too. And she’s right. We are. This song has all the makings of a classic: a haunting melody, longing lyrics, and a dissonant moment in the chorus worthy of inducing a goosebump or two.
Wild Child glistens most when they pull back and allow Wilson’s crisp and heartbreaking voice to gently brush against your eardrums. “Reno” highlights Wild Child’s greatest strength: damn fine composition with a gentle touch.
Fools is much more than the sum of its parts though. Each of these well-crafted songs come together to make an excellent album worth keeping close by your turntable. Whether you want the driving force of the opening/titular track “Fools” or you’re inclined more toward one of the emotive deep cuts such as “Reno,” Wild Child has offered a wide range of artful work on Fools.
Fools is available at Waterloo Records (who sponsored the record release) on vinyl as a high-quality, 180g pressing, which also includes a free digital download--all for a mere $21.99.
Wild Child is currently on tour promoting the record and makes their Austin homecoming at Stubb’s outdoors (tickets) on Saturday, November 28 supported by local favorites, The Deer. This is a show not to be missed.