The Wild Reeds - Cheers - - Soundblab

The Wild Reeds - Cheers

by Mark Moody Rating:9 Release Date:2019-03-08
The Wild Reeds - Cheers
The Wild Reeds - Cheers

The Wild Reeds should be ashamed of themselves.  On their latest album, Cheers, they serve up an embarrassment of hook-filled, sing-along songs.  Some of them have darker themes, but all are as catchy as the measles.  Whoever it is that gets to pick what the singles for the album will be is going to have a heck of a time.  Like the misguided dart at the beginning of opening track ‘Moving Target’, throw one and if you don’t hit the wall you are going to score a lot of points no matter where you land on this record.

With a potent line-up of three singer/songwriters in Sharon Silva, Kinsey Lee, and Mackenzie Howe, the Los Angeles based group is ably backed up by a couple of Nicks - Jones on drums and Phakpiseth on bass.  The songs have a decidedly retro feel with references to “collect calls”, “broken records”, “writing checks”, and even “Y2K”.  But what should have never gone out of style are the easy on the ears verse/chorus structures that pour forth from the speakers.  The types of songs that in the early days of MTV had the band members’ heads bobbing along cruising in their favorite convertible.

Starting off with the aforementioned ‘Moving Target’ with Howe on lead vocals a song about missed connections is one of the brassiest on the album.  The group has clearly left behind their earlier folky roots in favor of the cotton candy-colored pop feel of the album’s cover.  But thankfully things never get anywhere close to being overproduced, with tracks like ‘Lose My Mind’ where the instrumentation is understated in favor of some of the best harmonies on the record.  Other songs like the delicate ‘Play It Safe’ highlight an unadorned vocal turn. 

Even if a song with a title like ‘Telepathic Mail’ sounds like it may not connect, it decidedly does.  One of the smoothest operators on the album the chiming guitars are met with piano in the insanely catchy chorus.  And speaking of choruses, the delayed button-hook of one on ‘P.S. Nevermind’, where Lee takes lead vocal duties, is hardly fair.  One of the shortest tunes on the album where the chorus doesn’t hit ’til the halfway point will have you scrambling for the repeat button.  But repeated listens only make you clamor for the chorus more at the first break.  The agony and the ecstasy as they say. 

With a band where the component parts are so expertly blended together to make an intoxicating concoction every time out, it’s tempting not to filter for the component parts.  That being said, when a voice causes a physical reaction in the listener it needs to be mentioned.  Silva’s sepia-toned vocal range falls somewhere between Patsy Cline and a better behaved Lydia Loveless.  Pick your metaphor, but weak in the knees comes to mind or the ability to melt frozen butter from a thousand yards.  Her heartbreaking lead on ‘Don’t Pretend’, where she recounts a conversation with her dying mother is both a lump in the throat moment but also a thing of great beauty.  Regrets of ‘never pushing the limits’ and ‘never swimming in the deep end’ have a tug to them but Silva never stumbles in her delivery.  While her approach on ‘Young and Impressionable’ shows a poppier side coupled with a declaration of unending youth.

Though the group’s previous records have all been enjoyable listens, Cheers takes things to another level.  Comparisons to other groups are futile but just think of your favorite albums filled with under four-minute pop songs and file Cheers alongside them.  By ably holding each other up with harmonies, sympathetic instrumentation, or songwriting assists The Wild Reeds divide the work of creating great songs to make for a lighter individual burden.  Half a world away, Aussies Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever landed on the same three songwriter approach to similarly fantastic results.  The secret’s out everyone - triumvirates rule! 



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