Portland’s Wild Ones couldn’t have picked a more fitting title and release date for their second EP, Heatwave, which came out on August 14th. Most of North America seems to be suffering from high temperatures, so we’re all mopping up our sweat and wishing we could look as cool as frontwoman Danielle Sullivan does on the album’s cover, wearing a jacket that bears the title on the back. The songs have a cool, kind of dark sound that suggests being in a city on a summer night. The mood is set as the title track opens the album with summery guitar, slow vocals, and samples of the whitenoise from a crowd in the background: everything that makes you think of walking a crowded city street after dark, when everyone came out in hopes that the darkness might bring some relief from the high temperatures.
It’s synth-pop, maybe even a little dream-pop, but the guitar, piano, and drums from this six-piece band are noticeably real. Sullivan has a clear voice with obvious comparisons to CHVRCHES, but there’s an organic element to the instruments that CHVRCHES’ electronics lack. The other instruments may take a backseat to the synth, but they still add plenty. The understated guitars are full of reverb throughout the album. They scream summer on “Heatwave,” with reverbs filling the background while the lead guitar gets a little jittery. Though it starts out sounding like a Smiths song, the guitar gets funky on “Show Me Islands.” It really adds something that isn’t in many of Wild Ones’ synth-pop contemporaries.
With only five songs on the album, Wild Ones didn’t opt for any filler. Each song is strong and cohesive, they all fit in with that hot summer night mood. “Dim the Lights” and “Loveless” stand out among the bunch, both have a dark energy to them and feel slinky and sexy. Thematically, “Dim the Lights” is along the same vein as Alvvays: it’s as much about a coming of age (or trying not to, possibly) as it is about being with another person. Sullivan sings “Our youth is gone so we revel in the new age,” but later wishes to go somewhere where she can turn into someone else and wants to be in disguise. And despite not being youthful, they’re just heading home as they see “the men and women shuffling off to work” on the subway, said as if they’re not yet among the adults that would be referred to as men and women. It’s that millennial thing, technically not young but stuck feeling non-adult. The lyrics get badass and dark on “Loveless” when Sullivan threatens to show her enemies how loveless she can be, but it’s still slinky and sexy as she beckons “baby” to dance with her.
When you start listening to this EP, it may initially sound like you’ve heard it before. The clear, innocent-sounding female vocals over synth has been done by many other acts. However, Wild Ones has plenty of elements that let them stand apart: the reverb-packed guitar, the palpable summer feeling, and the relatable lyrics, among others. They’ve selected five strong tracks, making Heatwave a great album without any lag, except for the laggy, lethargic feeling you already have from this actual heatwave happening right now.