by Brian J. Audette
On Wild Child’s fourth LP Expectations the band continues along the trajectory set by their last release Fools, taking their signature folk pop sound and approaching it from a more mainstream angle. While Fools took me a little getting used to, after some time with the album I proclaimed that it was my favorite release from the band so far. Can Expectations take up that torch and run it further down the line?
Despite album opener “Alex”’s classic Wild Child feel and dueling vocals, make no mistake that on Expectations the divafication of band co-founder Kelsey Wilson continues and just as it was on Fools this is again the album’s strong suit. Wilson has one of those voices that only comes along once a generation: strong and technically gifted, but totally unique and preeminently confident. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Think it Over” and the titular “Expectations”, two tracks that scream for repeated listens while showcasing the band’s unique approach to radio-friendly pop.
“Think it Over” opens with Wilson’s solo cooing before sliding into a sultry beat replete with muffled drums and a funky guitar riff that’s instantly danceable. “I’ve been waiting for you/You say please come over/I know I shouldn’t so I wait, wait, think it over” croons Wilson over a chorus hook that refuses to be ignored. The song is the culmination of all of the band’s pop aspirations, but manages to maintain their identity amid the sparkling production. On first listen I had to play the track a second time just to make sure I was hearing it correctly. I expect great things from Wild Child, but damn … “Think it Over” is Top 40 material.
The album’s title track “Expectations” is a bit more rooted in familiar territory with its countrified beat and Wilson’s swaggering vocals, but the chorus immediately gives us that pop power we’ve come to expect. Backed by a staccato explosion of unison guitars and drums, Wilson lets loose in the chorus with the full strength of her vocal delivery: “I can’t stop burning bridges/I’ll win you over, make you my own/And then we’ll both feel different/You can’t possibly give what I want from you”. That last line echoes during the song’s final seconds, delivered in such a way by Wilson that the sound seems to clip, distorting under the sheer passion the moment.
The album mellows out a bit on side two with several slower tracks that veer more towards melancholy than the heartfelt dirges and torch songs of Fools. The band reaches back to their own past a bit for these tracks, adopting a folkier tone, while still maintaining the pop production of Expectations’ first side. By the time we get to “Break You Down” and “Leave it Alone” we’re back in poppier territory if not still in a more laid back mood before closing out with the country waltz “Goodbye Goodnight”.
In the end, Expectations does exactly as predicted and runs that torch further down the mainstream line, but not so far as Fools before it. If anything this album feels like Wild Child slipping into a bit of a comfort zone after the growth spurt of their first three albums, but it’s one that still leaves room for challenge and evolution. Slickly produced, expertly arranged, and beautifully sung, Expectations more firmly cements Wild Child’s sound while broadening their horizons and hopefully their reach at the same time. It’s often bittersweet to see a local favorite become a national darling, but if anyone deserves it, it’s Wild Child.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @bjaudette.