It’s becoming increasingly necessary to be leery of the indie rock hype machine. There are very few albums that actually live up to the press they receive. I avoided Wilderness’s debut album for a couple months precisely for this reason. But surprisingly, it’s even better than I’d been led to believe.
While the sweaty gestation of most newborn music happens quickly, this band reportedly took three years to fine tune this disc before they felt comfortable releasing it. Far from weighing down the album with an overabundance of sound and technical flawlessness, Wilderness feels like it took that amount of time to distill the perfect amount of atmosphere. Think about it: when these guys first began work on these songs, Interpol was plumbing the depths of Joy Division on their darkwave debut. Wilderness pulls from the same post-punk influences, but spreads them over an imaginary pixilated countryside. In doing so, they reach the stratospheric highs of post-rock groups like Explosions in the Sky.
The real thrill of this album is the vocals. James Johnson’s garbled diction and deconstruction of grammar are fantastic. Singing lines and inverting the subject and the object in the following line he creates a lyrical ouroboros with his logic feeding off itself. He pays a poet’s tribute to nearly every phrase by introducing them with an ‘O.’
Wilderness might not grab attention as immediately as Arcade Fire or Interpol, but they’ve already left such a distinctive footprint in foreign territory that it’ll be hard to fill it until they record their next one. Let’s hope that they will be quicker about forging this pathway the second time around.