On their second full-length album, The Wild Reeds have demonstrated just how far their wild ambitions, exhilarating talent and thrilling versatility extend. The World We Built is their first recording since joining Dualtone Music Group last year and it seems that under their guidance, the band’s sound has evolved from atmospheric, harmony-driven contemporary folk to a full-on unique hybrid of artsy indie pop-rock, painfully gorgeous folk with a tinge of classic country rock.
There is a deep maturity running throughout the album, reflected in occasionally dark, revelatory lyrics (“I’m worried about myself/I’m worried about my mental health”) that constantly throw the listener off guard after first being seduced by lush three-part harmonies – used here with more dramatic deliberation than their debut album Blind And Brave, which more closely followed the more simplistic contemporary-folk album rules. Here, the band are making their own rules.
Starting off with the solid single Only Songs, the album hooks the listener with the kind of feel-good, electric-guitar-led, hybrid folk-pop that launched The Head And The Heart into the commercial mainstream. It’s a killer song, a catchy anthem to the healing power of creativity. Fall Asleep is an equally strong track, throwing even more surprises in the mix with gentle synth-tinged pop progressions and pared down vocals that throw back to a retro Riot Grrl-era sound, with more unison singing, grungy reverb, and a spotlight on the starkly melancholic lyrics.
There’s a lot of talk about heartache and mental health throughout the album, and lyrically the band is operating on a level that perfectly walks that relatable line between poetic and pedestrian. My bluegrass heart loves Fix You Up, which throws a classic country sensibility complete with yawning pedal steel in the mix, then abruptly and excitingly switches gears from what starts out as the beginning of a country breakdown, to a driving pop bridge.
The middle of the album gets a little muddled, with some of the tracks falling a bit short of their ambitiousness…Not An Option and the third single Capable are a bit tough to untangle, throwing in a lot of elements that seem to deliberately keep the listener off-balance. But even in the missteps between defying and redefining convention, the sound is marked by powerful vocals, goosebump-inducing harmonies, and truly unique structuring, making it an undeniably captivating listen.
This is not merely a pretty atmospheric folk-pop album to play in the background; it demands to be listened to, fully. The one-two punch of the title track and the finale Fruition soar to symphonic heights that leaves the listener with lingering chills. It’s a staggering feat of a record, a bold announcement that The Wild Reeds are setting their sights on the skies, and they’re making their own way there.