The Avalanches - Wildflower

by James Gerard Rating:8 Release Date:2016-07-08

Sixteen years might as well be a lifetime when it comes to modern music.  And for most bands, a sixteen-year break between releases typically equates to a dramatic reduction in both audience and anticipation.  That is, unless it’s the follow-up to a masterpiece we’re talking about here.

Not unlike any number of cult classics, the current love and adoration that surrounds the Avalanches debut Since I Left You has grown by leaps and bounds (to nearly legendary status) since it’s 2000 release.  The album was, above all things, clever in the way that it juxtaposed numerous disparate styles, samples, and genres with an insanely infectious song-oriented template that helped the largely instrumental album achieve immediate crossover status.

And almost as quickly as it dropped, the anticipation for a follow-up began to build.  This is the point in the story where the Avalanches went full on ‘G’n’R’, allowing rumor, intrigue and full-blown speculation to blossom in the wake of their silence.  With an ever-shifting release-date redefining the term tentative, the band finally confirmed earlier this year that the follow-up Wildflower would finally be released this summer.

By all accounts, Wildflower was clearly a labor of love, with one song (“Frank Sinatra”) alone reportedly taking two years to mix down.  While legend states that their debut included thousands of samples, painstakingly hand-stiched together into an impressively cohesive tapestry, Wildflower takes that approach even further.  The basic formula is the same, with countless hook-laden samples being assembled into song-oriented structures, but the overall tone of the proceedings finds the ensemble pushing things even further into ‘pop’ territory, with lush, atmospheric vocals (along with some well-placed rhymes) adorning nearly every track.

And that leaves us with the only question that really matters: was it worth the wait?  I suppose it really boils down to your expectations.  Taken on its own, Wildflower is an admirable follow-up to a brilliant, genre-bending debut.  But not unlike other legendarily long-overdue releases (*cough* *cough* Chinese Democracy?), one can’t help but wonder if it’s window for greatest impact was missed by about a decade or so.  

Incubation time notwithstanding, Wildflower is a dense, rewarding listen that would easily stand on its own regardless of the hype.  While the task of following up a cult-classic is undoubtedly an unenviable one, here’s hoping the next release isn’t another sixteen years away.

 

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