Some albums are crafted tenderly with perfection in mind, and all personality lost. Some albums are all soul and no craft. But, sometimes, an album gets the balance right. Every now and then, an album comes along, grown with care and yet somehow still full of the uncanny magic and fire that makes good music good. This is a collection of songs that gets it right.
Wild Places is a beautiful, explosive, mysterious, kaleidoscopic debut from Moody Little Sister. The burning, soulful voices of Naomi Hooley and Rob Stroup cast out flickers of shadow and light with each new song. There’s depth, and beauty, and no easy answers or cliche endings…a lot like life, and exactly like music should be.
The album launches into the world with the incredibly catchy “Here I Go”, with an upbeat, tribal rhythm and Naomi’s beautiful voice taking center stage. Everyone will get goosebumps when Naomi croons Butter colored leaves stick to windows/you walk away soft as the wind blows. The song is about courage despite heartbreak, about loving life at its simplest. This is life, ain’t it/worth the taking/Say hello though my knees are shaking. It’s a lovely peek into what the rest of the record will sound like, without giving too much away.
“Ocean, Rock and Sand” will be many listeners’ favorite song, with a bluesy, Americana rhythm and a wonderfully poetic story about a man, journeying into the snow to search for gold, the woman who joins him, and the life they build together. It’s a love song without all the romance and none of the kitsch, and it’s an adventure, and it’s a fable about life, all in one. We’re going to carve a life out of the land/where the men are made of steel, and a woman’s made of ocean, rock and sand. Rob and Naomi’s vocals soar in and out of the choruses, the metaphors are powerful and poignant, and the poetry is rich and affecting.
All of the songs are so well written, it takes several listens to get all the layers of depth that the messages unveil. “Wild Places”, the title track, has a beautiful ache to it. “The Wave” is wonderfully wise. no matter how many harbors greet you/the ship is the captain and you are the wave. “Dangerous” (a line from this one starts this review) is dark and rich, and “Last Ones”, the chorus of which is a chant, shows Naomi at her strongest vocal point, full of swing and attitude and confidence and – yes – wild as anything. Her voice is both strong and sweet, and rises above the soundscape of each song to tell us her story, which is our story, which is the world’s story.
An earthy authenticity and nature-focused worldview permeates Wild Places, a hope that beauty will save the world, and that freedom is worth it, even if it’s dangerous. It’s a moving album, full of honestly good music, lyrics and rhythm. Moody Little Sister invites us to be a bit wilder, to break free of the complicated worlds we tend to build around ourselves, and to go outside to find Wild Places of our own.
Highly, highly recommended.
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