Wild Pink - ILYSM Music Album Reviews

Wild Pink - ILYSM Music Album Reviews
John Ross leads his band through a richly detailed and expectedly sentimental album that wrestles with all the life and death that exists in the midst of a cancer diagnosis.

John Ross, the lead singer of the New York-based Wild Pink, was writing songs for the follow-up to 2021’s A Billion Little Lights when his doctor told him he had cancer. He was only 34. Ross thought about pausing the project, but his doctor advised him to keep writing and recording: Better to focus on something other than the tumors clinging to his lymph nodes. Heeding the advice, Ross wrote through two surgeries, countless medical appointments, and what surely was a terrifying season of fear and instability. The effects of that decision reverberate through Wild Pink’s new album, ILYSM—a record that, in its sensitive yet raucous intensity, mimics the destabilizing experience of bodily demise. 

Tragedies like an unexpected diagnosis or the loss of a loved one can rob you of all your confident and clever opinions about the world—the kind that Wild Pink’s early albums were chock-full of—and reduce you to big, simple emotions: sad, scared, grateful, awestruck. Ross is in the thick of these emotions on the opener, “Cahooting the Universe”—a twinkling, full-band ballad with lyrics that a high school senior might pick for his yearbook quote. “It’s not how hard you try, it’s what you’re all about,” sings Ross at his most bearably earnest. It’s a stark and sappy departure from earlier Wild Pink tracks like “Oversharers Anonymous,” in which Ross’ tender voice brilliantly contrasts with the song’s scathing critique of social media.

There’s an expected sentimental undercurrent on ILYSM, especially in the album’s many references to animal life. There’s a “deer underneath the apple tree,” a “lone wolf out in the Rockies,” a “dog that heard thunder, shaking in a crate” and lots of birds: “rare birds” that mate for life, birds that return with a song, a bird that Ross spotted “gliding through a wave that could kill her,” and the sound of birds chirping on album closer, “ICLYM.” (The acronym stands for “I couldn’t love you more.”) When one of these quaint creatures pops up alongside a heartfelt request for someone to “lay right here with me, because I love you so much,” what you get is an unsophisticated tribute like “Hold My Hand,” featuring Julien Baker. Lyrically speaking, the title track’s loving and detail-rich description about Ross’ wife heading out into the world after she tended to his needs all night is much more affecting.

Beyond the cloying optimism of the first couple songs is something much more gnarly and refreshing. “Hell Is Cold” is raw and sprawling, and its abrupt cut-off will leave you wondering if Ross simply flipped the power switch on the mixing board, perhaps choosing to dose ILYSM with a little bit of the unpredictability life had recently served him. The mid-album stunner, “See You Better Now,” is a galloping jam session that recalls the windswept melodies of A Billion Little Lights. And the six-minute “Sucking on the Birdshot” is a gutsy ride through anger, sadness, tenderness, and terror, led by a sinewy guitar solo from Dinasour Jr.’s J Mascis and accented with some of the dissonant fuzz heard on early tracks like “Broke On,” from Wild Pink’s self-titled debut.

Mascis is one of many incredible collaborators bringing an experimental edge to ILYSM. There’s also Yasmin Wiliams, whose masterful acoustic fingerpicking chases Mascis’ electric guitar around on “Simple Glyphs,” imbuing what would otherwise be a straightforward rock song with a sense of pastoral ease. Pianist David Moore’s elegant and versatile playing on “The Grass Widow in the Glass Window” is another highlight, even as it elegantly dissolves into the background to make room for another round of beautiful guitar solos.

Here, in all this gorgeous and complicated music, is the infinite wisdom Ross was aiming for in his songwriting. If only it were enough to counter some of the more schmaltzy production choices, like the upbeat, chanting chorus of “ILYSM,” which recalls Coldplay’s soaring hit “Fix You,” or the astral synths and echoey spoken-word intro of album closer “ICLYM,” which resembles any number of songs from U2’s sloganeering All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Both songs possess a sense of naivete and obviousness that simply wasn’t present on previous Wild Pink releases. It makes sense when you consider what Ross was going through while recording ILYSM; it’s a lot easier to swing for the fences with your chord progressions and pen cryptic lyrics when you aren’t dealing with something that strips the varnish off your life. But tragedy doesn’t necessarily beget subtlety, and the perspective you gain doesn’t always last. ILYSM isn’t a brilliant album, but it shines bright and it soothes an aching soul. In this case, that’s more than enough.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Wild Pink - ILYSM Music Album Reviews Wild Pink - ILYSM Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 09, 2022 Rating: 5


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