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Second Take is an attempt to refrain from knee-jerk reaction-reviews to concerts & albums. We take our time and let the experience sink in before reviewing.
“Sophomore slump” wouldn’t be the right phrase to describe Wild Belle’s new album Dreamland. The album is in fact, good — “growing pains” would be more like it. The album is decidedly darker and more serious than their first effort with Isles.
Everything about this go ’round is darker: the album artwork palette, the sonic tones of the songs, and even their onstage presence. Granted, many songs were written during a period of a breakup for singer Natalie Bergman so melancholy is to be expected.
After listening to the album for a few weeks, and letting the concert sink in. I remain a bit perplexed. The duo is definitely stronger — brother Elliot rips some serious lines on the sax/keys — while their band has expanded to include a backup singer and some tight percussion. But they sit in an interesting space when it comes to pop music. I didn’t leave feeling uplifted, or blown away, but I did gain some strange insight into what it means to grow as an artist. You try new things with your voice (see “Giving Up On You”), and you make a statement without bludgeoning your listeners over the head (see “Throw Down Your Guns”).
With this album/tour, Wild Belle proves that life isn’t always as sunny and bright as maybe it was for them in 2013 when Isles came out. Dreamland effectively pulled me in as a listener and concert-goer in a way that hasn’t been done before. Maybe it’s time to rethink our expectations of “pop” and what it means to have an enveloped concert experience.
Next up on ‘Second Take’: Santigold