Wild Pink Capture the Sheet Vastness of Life on 'A Billion Little Lights'
Published Feb 17, 2021Wild Pink's first two albums, 2017's self-titled debut and the following year's Yolk in the Fur, are hidden gems — vocalist John Ross had quietly captured the numbing grandeur of classic rock poeticisms à la Tom Petty with a modernist bent. On those records, Ross sings as though he is forever staring out into the mountainous abyss, freely escaping the repetitiveness of the overstimulating New York City hustle, alongside slowly ascending guitars made for an impromptu highway drive out of town.
On their third full-length, A Billion Little Lights, the Brooklyn three-piece continue their understated outlook on contemporary living, not markedly hopeful or pessimistic in either direction but somewhere in between; realistic and in the moment. Ross's simple, profound imagery is found throughout the album, with lines like "dormant spore resting in the dust," and "with all the honey in a rolling boil." Wild Pink's pristine songs are about basking in the warmth of just being present, as it can be exhausting to try to find meaning in everything.
Ross's weary, soft coo recites the fleeting nature of significance as shuffling snare and burbling electronics hum on "Amalfi" while he turns around and half-jokingly self-loathes, "you're a fucking baby but your pain is valid too," on "Oversharers Anonymous." On the latter song, milky violin and pedal steel guitar showcase Wild Pink's Americana side as Ross laments the overstimulation of our virtually connected world and how it tends to make us obsessively question our every decision for all to see. With A Billion Little Lights, Ross emphasizes the need to step back and see things at a slower pace.
On lead single "The Shining but Tropical," Ross muses, "From way up high, the coast is a crisp line and all the microscopic life like a billion little lights." This line encapsulates Wild Pink's prevailing motif on the record — trying to perceive the sheer vastness of life while still getting hung up on the tiniest of details as well. On the song, the thumping drumbeat drives a rhythm as big sounding as anything Wild Pink has ever written, doubling down on the anthemic chorus with kisses of fluttering synths exhaling gently as they pass by.
The gradual, imperceptible song transitions and unpredictable little shifts in energy that made Yolk in the Fur such an encompassing listen are largely absent here, in favour for more conventional song structures, though it does not necessarily take away from Wild Pink's vision. The hooks are more clearly entrenched within the baby blue sparkle of Ross' guitar playing rather than having them tucked behind a misty guitar wash. This is most apparent on the bouncy "You Can Have It Back," Wild Pink's most straightforwardly catchy pop song with its highly singable "doo-doo"s and its lightly-greased bassline chugging along. Then, with a somewhat clunky brief moment of bird chirps as a transition, opaline finger-picked guitars sparkle and engulf "Family Friends" like a pearly halo, highlighting the delightfully blissful harmonies with Ratboys' Julia Steiner, who provides heavenly backup vocals throughout the album.
While A Billion Little Lights as a whole is not as elegantly cohesive as Wild Pink's past work, the starry-eyed melodies shine stronger and more confidently than ever. The band's dreamy sentimental detailing and lustrous guitar work is as easily digestible as it is thought-provoking as the layers peel back into both nothing and everything at once. (Royal Mountain Records)