The Wild Reeds are no strangers to studio & roadwork, and Cheers (Dualtone) is the quintet’s sophomore release. Now, this doesn’t mean much if you don’t know who the band is and it would probably make you even less familiar with the band’s music itself. The group though has established itself with a decent fanbase but again, that probably means less than nothing to you. I’m on my fourth listen and The Wild Reeds is the band you’re likely to find something new within its music after repeated listen but yeah…what does that mean to you?
The band has the capability to do a number of things, one of which is incorporate intricately loving harmonies within its songwriting. At first glance one might think what The Wild Reeds create, it’s all been done before. But that’s just some tomfoolery in thinking because you’d have to of missed the intricacies. Or, you could be a complete fucking idiot. From the getgo on “Moving Target” the unity of singers Kinsey Lee, Mackenzie Howe, and Sharon Silva are compelling when they come together over this pop-emblazoned number, which may lead you to think it’s guitar driven but those keyboards would make you think differently. Or it could just be the rhythm section of drummer Nick Jones and bass player Nick Phakpiseth that distract you from figuring it all out. Those same cooing vocals are predominant on “Telepathic Mail,” on this quick-paced fiery number where the repetitive melody hypnotically draws one in.
There’s no fine line drawn in order to pigeonhole The Wild Reeds as the band insists on letting the music draw out its own unique sound, no matter which direction they may find band members pulling and tugging towards. This is probably why “Losing My Mind” doesn’t come as much as a surprise as it should. Imagine some of the most creative beatsmiths digging in crates decades from now, in searching for something refined to sample and you’d probably toss this track in the mix. The Wild Reeds have crafted one of the most surreal fragments in sound here in under four minutes. The band again repeats a melody – yet without becoming repetitious – and it’s the rhythm section that holds it down around a spacey foreground with lyricism that fits the
It’s the pure honesty that draws the listener in though. Take “Play It Safe” for example. With lyrics like, “Mama said if you blink, you could miss the whole damn thing / because no one sees a dream once it turns reality, you miss it if you breath” and “You know what they say about playing it safe / If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space” on top of a soft era piece of sound that could date back decades, there’s no room for holding back. The track itself? Majestic.
The charm of The Wild Reeds is no matter which role or position they’re playing, slightly skipping variably through genres, whether singer/songwriting folk-like renditions on “Run And Hide” or “Get Better,” to rockers like “P.S. Nevermind,” the band is completely comfortable within the confines of each track, all the while holding tightly to its identity. Cheers is full of amazing songs and at 13 tracks, you won’t hesitate to play the album again and again, in its entirety.
There are moments when I’d like to come up with my own opinion and that becomes difficult when others attempt to make it for me. In the case of the Jay Som collaborator Justus Proffit and his new release, L.A.’s Got Me Down (Bar None) I’m bombarded by his own press that continually touts his music as “Sebadoh-adjacent” and having Elliot Smith similarities. While all the artists may share common influences, Proffit’s work is sullied a bit here and should be able to stand upon its own merit.
Proffit is good at what he does, and that’s pulling songs straight out of his guitar with blistering effect. Now while it doesn’t match the attack of Jeff Rosenstock or Ben Katzman’s Degreaser, Proffit still encapsulates a headspace with a sonic foundation that is rather explosive from time to time. His “Intro” sounds like he’s simply getting as much noise in the opener as he can find while “Shadow Of The Cross” plays with dynamics after its drum fuckery into a recognizable song pattern. “Split Into” shares the same love of those same shifts, which he subtly incorporates into other tracks but it seems the indie kid inside just has a penchant for digging up a style of play we haven’t heard since the 90s, and that’s ok when it’s done well. But it’s the quieter moments that I’m drawn to as well.
“Laughing On The Inside,” while still leaving the dial on amplifiers up high has Proffit singing, doubling up his vocals at times, creating harmonies over the track and “Painted In The Sound” seems to accomplish the same, which is inviting. He even closes the album with “unnamed/ unlisted track lp/ cd/ cassette,” what seems like an ode to Tascam 4-track recordings of days past. L.A.’s Got Me Down is a throwback to an age of decadence, loud music and casual recordings. While there might be some to quickly dismiss Justus Proffit as pilfering through the bins of his own record collection, I’m not so quick to jump into the mix. There is worth in his offering here.