REVIEW: Wild Ones - Heatwave

Laura Kerry

I’m just going to get this part out of the way: It’s hard to discuss a particular combination of childlike female vocals and haunting, dance-influenced synth parts without mentioning CHVRCHES or Purity Ring. Wild Ones and their new EP Heatwave sound a lot like both.

Ok, there. I said it. That’s done.

A somewhat more interesting discussion opens up from the different paths each group took to arrive at similar sounds. CHVRCHES, from Glasgow, Scotland; Purity Ring, from Alberta Canada; and Wild Ones, from Portland, Oregon, all formed from a melding of local bands, each creating electronically-dominated music that seems to have no ties to any earthly place at all. The least-known of the trio, Wild Ones’ story might also be the most unlikely. A six-member band—including Thomas Himes, Danielle Sullivan, Clayton Knapp, Nick Vicario, Seve Sheldon, and Max Stein—they formed out of a blown eardrum and punctured lung in 2012, from backgrounds as diverse as a punk band and classical composition.

As odd as it may seem, though, the synth pop of Heatwave might be the logical meeting place for such disparate origins. In their second album, Wild Ones delivers music that is equal parts measured and expressive, the amalgamation of extremes on the spectrum from visceral punk to studied classical music. In five songs, the band—operating as a democratic collective—uses precisely-layered voices to create a seemingly unmoored dreamscape.

Though clearly well-thought out, what jumps out most about the EP is its ability to conjure mood more than ideas. Alternating between sweeping textures and light, shimmering lines—all held together with structured vocal melodies and a wash of reverb—each of the five tracks seems to emerge from the heatwave described in the first one. The lyrics often return to refrains of “ooh” and “uh oh,” which elsewhere might seem like a trite reminder of all the pop “oohs” before them. But in Danielle Sullivan’s clear, agile voice, they come across as wordless bits of undiluted expression.

A transportive mood is apparent in Heatwave’s theme, too, which deals at different points with the aspiration to be elsewhere, whether in time or space. “Dim The Lights,” the second song, sets the scene in a car with someone moving towards something. In the verse, Sullivan sings, “Our youth is gone / And so we revel in a new age” and “I want to go where I could turn into anyone,” but the explosive chorus reveals another sentiment intertwined at the beginning of adulthood: “Play the record / Make me move backwards in time”—a nostalgic longing to return to the past. Elsewhere, in songs such as the strong, haunting finale “Loveless,” the story emerges in fractured scenes that hint at a fantastical narrative.

But while Wild Ones’ music tackles the fantasy of going elsewhere, the band embarks on a tour all over the U.S. And with such a fully-realized EP, it’s likely they’ll continue to go even further.