Just a year after releasing their self-titled debut, one of 2017 best rock albums, Wild Pink are back with their new album ‘Yolk In The Fur’. While the somewhat lo-fi recording of 2017’s ‘Wild Pink’ perfectly complemented John Ross’ observational lyricism, ‘Yolk In The Fur’ sees the band expanding their sound while retaining the same level of specificity.
In incorporating synthesisers and steel guitars, ‘Yolk In The Fur’ strongly evokes classic heartland rock acts such as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, as well as the genre’s contemporary practitioners The War on Drugs. Much like those two bands Wild Pink’s synthesisers create the image of America’s open vistas, simultaneously providing delicate swells and lead melodies. Accompanying this perfectly is the rhythm section which provides a steady, pulsing rhythm which almost literally drives the songs forward. This is most evident on lead single ‘Lake Erie’, in which Ross sings about growing up and trying to escape whatever past may haunt you. While Ross outlines his observations with a level of meticulousness that is truly rare, the rhythm section barely breaks stride, making it near impossible to not feel Ross’ restlessness and desire to break free of any restraints holding him back.
‘Lake Erie’ is a standout track on an album full of standout tracks and while the instrumental arrangements play a large part in that, it is John Ross’ lyrics and delivery that truly make this an exceptional album. Rarely delivered above a conversational volume, Ross’ lyrics are contained and intimate as well as highly specific. This delivery makes the listener feel as if we are being let in on a secret that Ross himself is unsure he wants to divulge. Again this is exemplified in ‘Lake Erie’ where he sings “I am uneasy, like I was in school when I thought and I thought, I thought I’d never get out”.
This intimacy is key to Wild Pink’s appeal, and was prevalent through their debut as well. Although, while this prosaic lyricism and delivery invites the listener into a confined, personal space, the album’s instrumentation and production lend each line more weight, transforming one individual’s personal struggles into something more universal. When Ross sings “sometimes I see you in my mind’s eye, blowing on your coffee”, from one of the album’s highpoints ‘There Is A Ledger’, he gives this mundane memory an emotional impact that truly resonates.
It is this delivery and level of specificity that make him such an easy narrator to root for as well as one of the most endearing frontmen of his era. While many vocalists tell stories of more abstract themes, with just enough specifics to ground them in reality, Ross feels like a real person who is just singing about moments that he has witnessed, often resisting the urge to attach more meaningful symbolism than is already there. This is best showcased in ‘Love Is Better’, which takes place “in a neighbourhood the mob reputedly still haunts”, where “there’s a sweet old man at the bar with his eyes closed, mouthing the words to the Kim Carnes song on the radio, knowing there’s no way he can ever admit his lovesick truth, not to his friend”. The song slowly builds over a steady drum beat with Ross quietly proclaiming that “Love is better than anything else”. This song comes towards the end of the album, and the is record’s core message. While many songs feature heartache and despair, this is ultimately an optimistic album, with Ross searching for the positives in life.
2017’s ‘Wild Pink’ was something of a sleeper hit, however ‘Yolk In The Fur’ is an instant classic. The band’s expanded sound, as well as their more polished production, is bound to attract more fans upon first listening than their debut and Ross’s songwriting is better than ever. This is a truly remarkable album, combining a timeless sound with heartbreakingly beautiful lyrics that achieves the rare feat of sounding both universal and deeply personal at the same time. That this album came so soon after their debut is nothing short of miraculous, and hopefully a sign of bigger and better things to come.
‘Yolk In The Fur’ is out now via Tiny Engines.