Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Written by: TL on 04/09/2016 13:53:21
UK quartet Wild Beasts are called indie-rock by Wikipedia but have started self-labelling as pop on their own Facebook, and indeed, we're on the fringes of our coverage area, talking about their heavily electronic new album. "Boy King", the band's fifth since forming in 2002, is excellent, however, and a serious reason to look forward to the band's show in Pumpehuset, Copenhagen this October. Coming off the somewhat artsy "Present Tense" from 2014, Wild Beasts have gone for a more decadent feeling on the new album, and the result has turned out sexy as all hell.
Kraut synths and heavily effect-drenched guitar embrace each other in acts of sweaty love across this record, and the mix is immaculate, as you can sense the perfectly arranged notes creak and scratch against the confines of your headphones. There's a darkness to the atmosphere, and the rendezvous point between indie rock and electronica feels similar to the sonic locales Danish listeners would usually find Veto or Reptile Youth in, but Wild Beasts have a different sense of swagger to them: More charismatic and prowling, like some jungle predator, than Veto's cooled down atmospheres or Reptile Youth's rampant energy.
The first half of the album is pretty much perfect. Bassist, keyboardist, and primary singer Hayden Thorpe sings with air and texture in his voice, sounding like a professionally trained vocalist diving into considerations about our more primal urges as people, and the give and take of the song progressions are brilliantly structured. The enchantment here is total, with "Tough Guy" and "Alpha Female" proving particularly captivating, the guitar solo in the former making for a prime example of how brazen Wild Beasts can sound. Meanwhile, the weird.. horn?/vox? sample that opens "Get My Bang" sounds like something a certain Mr. West would wish he had come up with for one of his celebrated hip-hop productions, and the escalating electronic melodies that course through "Celestial Creatures" should offer something to all of those who have recently be turned onto synthwave by listening to the Stranger Things soundtrack.
Sadly, the album does go through a bit of a slump on the second half. And although secondary vocalist Ben Little is not really to blame for this, wielding his deeper voice with as much texture and uniqueness as Thorpe uses his higher notes, his track "2BU", which initially reminds a tiny bit of Muse's "Madness", does instigate a stretch of songs where the atmosphere is still as good as ever, but the songs don't progress with the same firm grasp of the listener as the ones of the first half of the album. The band gets back into the swing of things with a great closer in the exotically blooming album closer "Dreamliner", though, and should you be listening to the album on Spotify, the extra 20 minutes "Boy King Trash" also holds some isolated, yet awesomely sounding bits and pieces that couldn't find a home within the actual songs.
Overall, "Boy King" is an example of boundary-pushing, supremely modern and highly refined musicianship, blurring the borders between indie, rock, pop, and electronica, and pulling off seeming high-minded and primal somehow at the same time. If the second half of it measured up to the first, it would probably have been the best album of 2016 by a bit of distance, but even with that not being the case, it's pretty f*cking good regardless.
Download: Tough Guy, Alpha Female, Big Cat, Get My Bang
For The Fans Of: Veto, Reptile Youth, Muse, David Bowie
Release date 05.08.2016