Pop music is evolving, changing –becoming something more compelling. The synthesizer has made its comeback and has taken over. Arguably, the range of voices in the musical world is expanding as well, as new singers become more confident in their specific styles. If one band captures every advance on pop within the last decade, it’s Wild Ones. Their latest album Mirror Touch is dream-pop par excellence. Each track utilizes a slew of electronic instruments to build the perfect backdrop for vocal melodies that sting you in the heart.
I don’t know whether I love or hate Mirror Touch. I must have listened to the album a dozen times or more and still can’t come up with a conclusion. Wild Ones has put together some of the most compelling lyrics, clever instrumental voices, and catchy melodies –and still missed the mark by just sounding predictable and boring. The heavy content is sometimes delivered masterfully, and at other times tarnished by a cheesy line that just takes it that one step too far. And at the end of the day, the only thing I know for sure about Mirror Touch, it’s that the album is strong enough of a pop album to really catch on –to win over the masses. The synth driven beats combined with the dynamic and charmingly girlish vocals makes for a sound like a flame to a moth.
Admittedly, my disillusionment with this phenomenal album begins from track one. Mirror Touch opens with “Parasthesia.” The song is built on a steady flow of electronic, percussive rhythm and driven by vocal lines that alternate with periods of ambient, wispy synths. Lead vocalist, Danielle Sullivan, makes an unfortunate introduction; her voice is eerily reminiscent of Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry. My gut said ‘ripoff’, but make no mistake, Sullivan proves herself as the album goes on. “Parasthesia” draws in other déjà vu –bringing together memories of Beirut’s more minimalized, synth driven works. As the album progresses to its next track, “Do You Really,” the mood gets a little more dramatic and the band carves out their own little niche spot in the pop world. The chorus is simple, “Do you really want to turn me away? Do you really want to tell me no?” While the rest of the track pulls in more participation from the electronic instruments. Synth notes and drum machines pad the song out and give it a nice depth. It’s not a blockbuster, but certainly a step closer to Wild Ones’ uniqueness.
The album progresses and each song is driven by the same formula: heartfelt lyrics and crafty synthesizers. It’s amazing how much sound Wild Ones eeks out of just a few instruments. At the same time, much of the album leaves me begging for a little more ingenuity –I can’t help but feel that the musicians behind Wild Ones are nuanced composers, but they opt out of really pushing their own limits. The songs are a bit predictable and safe –it’s not a thrilling listen but a very well made one. Sometimes the moody lyrics get to be a bit much, less in what’s being sung and more in the delivery. For instance, the slow and swaying, “Invite Me In,” carries out a line, “I don’t open my door no more, not to anyone,” and follows up with an echoed, “anyone.” It feels unnecessary and the little decisions like these tend to break the atmosphere more than anything.
“Standing At the Back of Your Show” is by far my favorite track of Mirror Touch. The track itself has a genius approach. A percussive hit and stringy notes generate a sentimental lounge mood. The vocals are appropriately sentimental and despite the track’s simplicity, it’s performed excellently.
A few tracks later, “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Love and Loathing” kill it for me. The former sounds painfully busy; synths and percussion compete for room alongside a nonstop series of vocals. Again, it’s predictable and really lacks the same charm previous tracks offer. The latter song, “Love and Loathing,” sounds strenuous, with the vocals blasting with a repetitious intensity. The song’s close is just as awkward, adding in a final, unwarranted line of lyric.
I feel compelled to recommend Mirror Touch outright. It’s a fairly solid pop album, with dark and sentimental elements. Its moodiness is often both a strongpoint and an area for error, but aside from times when Wild Ones seems to just try hard, or maybe not hard enough –it’s not too bad. I’m a West Coast dream-pop skeptic, and I still found myself enjoying the album –so maybe that says something about my taste and Mirror Touch’s quality. With all my contradictions aside, Mirror Touch is an excellent addition to the pop collection –its dreary sentimentality and careful composition will keep you coming back, even when you think you shouldn’t.