Will Epstein - Wendy Music Album Reviews

Will Epstein - Wendy Music Album Reviews
On his new album, the Nicolás Jaar collaborator undergoes a vivid technicolor upgrade but his songwriting doesn’t always leave an impression.

Around the release of his debut EP, The Beautiful Moon, New York songwriter Will Epstein (then known as High Water) described his changing relationship with Bob Dylan’s music. A lifelong fan, Epstein didn’t really pay attention to what Dylan was singing until adulthood. “The lyrics act like a spell, to summon the spirit,” he said in 2013. “He uses these words to summon this emotion, and I as a listener can experience the spirit without knowing the spell.” The composer, multi-instrumentalist, and longtime collaborator of Nicolás Jaar, has since referred to his own songs as incantations, their circular structures mutating with each rotation. On his new album, Wendy, Epstein leads a cast of contributors through an imaginative blend of cosmic jazz, psych, and 1970s soft rock, but his songwriting doesn’t always stand up to the detailed arrangements.

This is Epstein’s sharpest solo work, following a pair of more hemmed-in releases. His 2016 full-length Crush and last year’s Whims sounded somewhat compressed and coated in a lo-fi haze, the grainy production obscuring Epstein’s arrangements like VHS static. The songs were expanding toward something unique, but they never quite got there. On Wendy, Epstein and co-producer Michael Coleman render every instrument in high-definition, sculpting and sanding each sound as if trying to coax it into a three-dimensional form. The result feels like Eptein crossing over from the fuzzy black-and-white of his past work to full blown technicolor.

In “Will the Morning Come,” a distant clatter scratches at the surface, stirring an otherwise soft and simple piano ballad. The small disturbance—like a wind-rattled porch door—places you in the room with Epstein. It swells into a dry ripple, contrasting his clean falsetto and enriching the song with texture. On “Golden,” multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily spins bright, brittle webs from his guitar, tangling with Epstein’s saxophone at the song’s climax.

These unexpected details and scene-stealing guest appearances embolden Epstein’s melodies, which can be repetitive and a bit unadventurous. Across most of Wendy’s songs, you’ll hear inventive instrumental flourishes, rarely played the same way twice. Yet Epstein’s vocals loop the same course, without traveling anywhere unexpected. “Oyster Bay” is one of the sleepier examples; Epstein crafts a sparkling plane of prepared piano, body percussion, keyboards, and soprano sax. But his gauzy voice, recalling “powdered glass from cities past,” wears thin. On an album bursting with dynamic instrumental performances, the vocals feel structurally basic.

Epstein’s writing is fairly simple, but compact and vivid phrases cut through here and there. On “Passenger” he sings about a rigid heart, “dancing like a needle in the groove.” The lyrics, which he co-wrote with musician Gryphon Rue, convey the worn path of old habits—the illusion that we’re moving freely when we’re confined to the same cyclical track. Epstein’s voice is pinched tightly into an almost painful key, but the discomfort adds a sense of eeriness, as does the veil of electronics, chirping like microrobotic crickets.

The five-minute opener “Suddenly Rain” is by far Wendy’s best song. Its dense arrangement culminates in a carnival of clanging textures, which pile on with each pass of the chorus. Epstein performs nearly every instrument, save for drums (Coleman) and the blazing guitar solo courtesy of Darkside’s Dave Harrington. It is Epstein’s most Beatles-indebted song, underpinned by layers of wordless harmonies, but their sweetness works well against the off-kilter lyrics, written with poet Maggie Milner. “Salt water kiss/Under the fly strips,” he sings. “Amber strings/Dangling/Little wings.” Epstein contrasts his sun-drenched melody with rough, tactile percussion and creeping piano. It is a rich and kaleidoscopic piece, and it kickstarts the record with the promise of something truly intoxicating. If only all of Epstein’s spells were so effective.
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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.
Will Epstein - Wendy Music Album Reviews Will Epstein - Wendy Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 09, 2023 Rating: 5


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