Album Reviews

The Wild Reeds

The World We Built

Artist:     The Wild Reeds

Album:     The World We Built

Label:     Dualtone

Release Date:     04/07/2017

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Three-part female harmony is fairly common these days, but the Wild Reeds somehow touched me with the best sound of this kind that I’ve heard since the Haden Triplets. The talented front-women are: Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe, who alternate on lead vocals and take a multi-instrumental approach with an array of acoustic and electric instruments throughout the set. They are backed by a rhythm section of Nick Jones (drums) and Nick Phakpiseth (bass). Part of makes the band so engaging is the breadth of sound which seamlessly shifts from quiet folk to punk to reckless rock n’ roll. They have a much more robust sound than most bands of this ilk.

The Wild Reeds have arrived quickly. Building on the momentum of their EP Best Wishes this summer, the band was buoyed by enthusiastic press from both NPR and the New York Times. Their recent appearance at SXSW is sure to increase that momentum. Radio airplay is already prominent for the album’s first single (and first track), “Only Songs.”

Each leader leans in a different musical direction but the collaborative spirit is the driving force. As Howe says, “When we’re all singing together, it really becomes one unique voice.” Here are some examples of what each woman brings. “Only Songs” was written by Howe, and highlights her rock-centric approach, inspired by the ’60s and ’70s rock songs her mother raised her on. “It’s about the feeling that music gives you,” she told NPR in an interview. “There’s a freedom in music found nowhere else and it doesn’t discriminate, it’s in the garage and the cathedral.”

“Fall To Sleep,” was penned by Kinsey Lee. It begins as a quiet, tame acoustic folk song but ends with chaotic guitar distortion and animated chorus. Sharon Silva may be the most lyrically gifted of the three and her style lies somewhere in between Howe and Lee. For example, “Capable” has a series of highs and lows, a style Silva describes as “sort of like yelling at someone and then whispering an apology.”

A quick glance at the song titles speaks not only to obstacles a female fronted band faces on the road but in general what many of us face in our regular lives. Check these: “Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight),” “Patience,” “Not an Option,” “Back to Earth,” and “Catch and Release.” As Lee says,

“We aren’t as concerned with sounding ‘pretty’ as we are with sounding real. Everything we do is very raw and I think that’s why people tend to find comradery in our lyrics.”

Said another way, what many bands boasting three-part female harmonies lack is an edgy sound. The Wild Reeds not only have it but combine it with shifting styles, tempos, and dynamics. The songs and musicianship seem every bit as important as melding their three voices together.

—Jim Hynes

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