The ska-influenced Chicago rock of Wild Belle was truly something to adore when their debut, Isles, arrived in 2013. The combination of smooth vocals and psychedelic slow jams from the brother and sister group was delicious. On Dreamland, the duo has gone even more experimental, producing a fierce follow-up that channels the musical grandeur of Firefly composer Greg Edmonson and singer Paloma Faith in one place.
Dreamland is singer Natalie Bergman giving as good as she gets from a charming, but frequently dismissive, highwayman-type lover. It’s strained dreams and rhythmic cries about “leaving town”. Sheryl Crow meets the Black Keys on ‘Cannonball’, a saucy blues rock number that Bergman might choose as she dons her high-heeled boots and zips up her freakum dress, ready to reel her lover in for the kill. It’s red-hot. This fierce female energy is a recurring theme of Dreamland, appearing on the anthemic ‘Coyotes’ (“try to take me down, I’m too wild to tame”) and the rapid ‘Throw Down Your Guns’.
Fittingly, there’s a hypnotic quality to many of Dreamland’s songs about love falling apart. ‘Losing You’ is the sort of stare-at-the-ceiling song you play while wondering why your girl/boyfriend hasn’t called you in over a week. ‘Giving Up on You’ is a speedy, jazzy song with the vocal power of Paloma Faith or Sia. And, in the album’s latter half, the Caribbean-influenced ‘The One That Got Away’ squeezes in a calypso vibe that works surprisingly well.
Conflict and tension have encouraged a more urge-sounding set of songs than Wild Belle’s comparatively chilled debut. The end result is a very convincing foray beyond their roots with delightfully unexpected results.
Dreamland is out now on Columbia Records.
Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @aarnlee.