Wild Pink’s self-titled debut album was one of 2017’s hidden gems, stocked with 11 songs that showcased a particularly airy take on fairly straightforward indie rock. Take the slow parts of early Death Cab for Cutie records, pump ‘em full of sighs and thrum, mix in a healthy dose of millennial weariness and you’re in the Wild Pink ballpark.
The New York trio’s new album Yolk in the Fur zeroes in on the sighs and thrum, with beautiful results. Songwriter and frontman John Ross still sings in a plain, cherubic way that recalls Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, but his band has evolved into a sort of synth-touched nü-roots-rock band that drones and soars and shimmers understatedly. Put more simply, Wild Pink apparently has a strong Springsteen / War on Drugs streak in its DNA.
That streak is most clearly and proficiently explored on “Lake Erie,” where lilting slide guitars and a sheer synth tone hang in the air, high above a steady beat and bass line, as Ross sings of modern unease and Tumblr neurosis. Whatever vaguely ‘80s motorik + classic rock quality has made The War on Drugs an amphitheater band, Wild Pink has it, too.
Synthesizer backdrops continue through the next few tunes, giving the first half of Yolk in the Fur a cohesive and cinematic feel. The title track starts out heavy with fuzz—like “Baba O’Riley” gone indie rock—before settling into a lovely little song of self-actualization. “Being great ain’t no waste,” Ross sings, “so I’ll put some skin in the game.” Then comes a pretty guitar interlude (“Civility at Gunpoint”) that leads into “Jewels Drossed in the Runoff,” another album highlight that makes the most of its midtempo jangle. As the final song in this interconnected foursome, it feels like a triumphant ending, like flying above the clouds.
The second half of Yolk isn’t as strong, but it still holds interesting developments. “The Seance on St. Augustine St.” takes six minutes to grow from a slow and lackluster rumble into a gentle blast of guitar-squall swagger. “Love Is Better” sounds like Wild Nothing colliding with Band of Horses; it is beautiful and hopeful. “John Mosby Hollow Drive” is a Tom Petty song in a well-worn Barsuk Records T-shirt. And “There Is a Ledger” probably goes overboard with the canned synth sounds.
Yolk in the Fur’s shortest non-instrumental is its closer, “All Some Frenchman’s Joke,” which finds Ross pondering the necessity and uncertainty of moving forward while guitar strings flutter and keys reverberate in the background.
Letting go of youth after the time is due
Feels like relief, like when something stuck is freed
You lose something sweet but you become more real
And it feels like relief, like something meant to be
I don’t know what happens next
That last line voices a reasonable (and universal) worry. But the progression from Wild Pink to Yolk in the Fur indicates Ross knows exactly where he’s headed, musically, at least.