Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WILD FLAG (2011)

When it was first released back last September, this rousing self-titled debut from all-female supergroup Wild Flag had several prominent critics clamoring to declare it the best album of 2011.

Well folks, I got news for you.

In a year that gave us Tuneyard's vibrant Whokill, Destroyer's Kaputt, and especially PJ Harvey's masterful Let England Shake, Wild Flag ain't quite that good.

But there remains a ton to like.

The band...comprised of indie superstars Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, the Minders' Rebecca Cole, and Helium's Mary Timony...pulls from all four members past efforts, but it's the high-powered psych-rock feel of Sleater-Kinney's final two albums that looms largest.

If anything, the album feels like the poppier, slightly less confident kid sister to SK's '05 masterpiece The Woods...not quite as assertive, not quite as attractive, not quite as daring or adventurous, but still plenty damn hot.

Brownstein, stepping out from monster-voiced SK teammate Corin Tucker's shadow, handles most of the vocals here, and her spirited, punky yelps do the album proud.  Weiss's thunderous drumming is, as always, exceptional, and Cole provides all manner of engaging keys.

Timony's vocals are another matter.  With a delivery style similar to Brownstein's, but much weaker in presence, they're one of the albums two chief drawbacks.

Luckily, just when Timony seems positioned to sing a song into oblivion, the band's fabulous group harmonies and bad-ass instrumentation swoop in to save the day.  A number of the songs here, particularly Glass Tambourine, Short Version, and Black Tiles, start out good to just okay, but then explode into swaggering awesomeness on their back halves.

And it's that swagger, whether on more playful efforts like jaunty opener Romance, or in the album's highpoint, the jammy, cut-it-loose throwaway Racehorse, that one takes away most from Wild Flag.

My only other complaint: some of the material here, especially on the album's much weaker front half, feels hastily assembled.

The band started generating heat from public performances far before this record was released, and  it feels as if weaker tracks like Boom, Endless Talk and the clumsy opening half of Glass Tambourine weren't given the proper amount of time to gestate in the rush to capitalize on the band's growing live buzz.

But that said, it's impressive how cohesive, ballsy, and fun much of the rest of the material is.

Like I said, it ain't the best album of 2011.

But it definitely deserves some consideration for runner up.

Status: Strong Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: Romance, Short Version, Racehorse, Black Tiles.

Track Listing:
1. Romance - 9
2. Something Came Over Me - 8
3. Boom - 6
4. Glass Tambourine - 7
5. Endless Talk - 7
6. Short Version - 9
7. Electric Band - 8
8. Future Crimes - 8
9. Racehorse - 10
10. Black Tiles - 8
Intangibles - Above Average
Spotify / I-Tunes / Amazon

Here's the official video for Romance.

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