Wild Pink – A Billion Little Lights
Americana | Indie Rock
What makes an album objectively good and what makes an album meaningful to you, while often intertwined, aren’t necessarily one and the same. Think for a moment about all the little quirks of your house; how the floorboards creak, how you have to jangle your keys in the lock, how you can never seem to get the oven clean etc. They’ll be no end of houses out there where these things aren’t an issue, but that means very little when none of them feel like home. Or perhaps think back on your first car. Odds are it was far from being the fastest, or the most luxurious, and almost certainly not the most reliable vehicle on the road. There’ll be plenty of better cars out there, but none of them will ever be able to replicate the feeling of freedom that your first car gave you.
Even on the first listen, A Billion Little Lights seems to breed that same kind of familiarity and nostalgia. As soon as you press play, hit with the warm and welcoming embrace of Americana, you begin to feel right at home. Carried forward into the sprawling expanse you’re gifted with that same sense of escape and freedom. Maintaining a lot of the ambition and quiet grandeur that defined their 2018 breakthrough record Yolk in the Fur, but swapping out some of the more airy indie elements to double down on shimmering synth-driven heartland rock, this record is an experience first and foremost. Greater than the sum of its parts, it demands to be listened to as a whole like one continuous piece.
This album’s greatest asset is the feeling of flow that it weaves. Beyond how just the overall style draws you in, at times touching on that all too rare feeling of universal appeal, it’s the way songs so seamlessly interconnect that helps pull you deeper into its embrace and whisk you away on a journey. How the soft lullaby of bright falling piano notes on ‘Bigger Than Christmas’ builds towards the burst of golden radiance that opens lead single ‘The Shining But Tropical’. The bittersweet synth-rock of ‘Amalfi’ evoking the quiet unnatural glow of a city in the dead of night, giving way to the lush pastoral pleasures of ‘Oversharers Anonymous’ with its sublime steel guitar, like the break of dawn slowly peeking over the horizon. How the subtle splashes of sax on ‘Pacific City’ fade in to a soft hum from which springs closing track ‘Die Inside’, ending the record on a charming high with a chorus that reminds me of Bear’s Den.
This certainly isn’t an album that seeks to reinvent the wheel. It can’t be said to do anything new or exceptional, and nor is it without its faults. While it’s Wild Pink’s most consistent work, it never quite reaches the same heights that its predecessor managed. The vocals don’t feel quite as crisp or clear in the mix this time around either, with John Ross’ voice becoming just another instrument in the background at times. Lyrically it has a few memorable lines that grab you for the right reasons, but on ‘The Wind Was Like a Train’ and ‘You Can Have It Back’ the respective refrains become far too repetitive and just serve to take you out of the whole experience. Even so, I keep finding myself drawn to A Billion Little Lights. Sometimes I may review an album I consider a masterpiece only to never return to it, and sometimes I’ll review a charming yet unextraordinary record and still have it on repeat for months on end afterwards. Wild Pink’s latest effort falls into that latter category; a comforting little sanctuary that you wrap around yourself like a blanket, lifting your spirits like the first sunny day of spring after a long bleak winter.