Oct 13, 2022
By Sean Fennell
In early 2021 Wild Pink released A Billion Little Lights, an album that announced John Ross as a truly gifted songwriter, one able to contain vast vistas within single songs. Less than 20 months later, the band is back with ILYSM, a collection pushing the boundaries of what constitutes Wild Pink’s sound without completely disassembling what they’ve quietly built over their three previous releases.
For Ross, ILYSM is an attempt to balance catharsis and songcraft in a way that can sometimes be diametrically opposed. Wild Pink are a band for which prettiness comes in abundance but for Ross, the last year or so has been littered with challenges. It’s haunting, a bit, to learn that Ross recorded this album knowing he had cancer in his lymph nodes. Quite obviously, this made its way into the ILSYM’s content, namely the record’s second single, “Hold My Hand,” a whispered, piano-driven duet with Julien Baker which tells of the moment before his first surgery, as a nurse holds his hand as he’s being put under.
From a sonic standpoint, this collection stretches things a bit, letting in more experimentation than we’ve seen from Wild Pink in the past. “Abducted at the Grief Retreat” sees Ross warping his vocals into something dreamlike but whether the dream is a nightmare is a question hovering over the song like a black cloud. “Sucking on a Birdshot” implements an amount of cacophony that bursts through the otherwise pastoral scene in a way that threatens to snap the back off of the record in two. It’s a tight line Ross and company walk but one that ultimately gives the record a certain amount of vitality even if it means relinquishing some of the pure sunlit beauty of A Billion Little Lights. (www.wildpinkmusic.com)
Author rating: 8/10
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