Wild Belle - Isles

It’s a triumph of unique, gold-standard pop music.

Label: Sony

Rating: 6

Hype, the fickle creator and destroyer of many a buzz band, is very well acquainted with the two Bergman siblings who form Wild Belle. In late-2011, their sparkling spectre of a song called ‘Keep You’ came out of nowhere and completely hypnotised the World Wide Indieweb. It was essentially off the strength of this one song that they managed to amass a huge swarm of buzz, secure a record deal with Columbia Records (Sony), and now, release their debut album, ‘Isles’, on said-label a year and a half later. So how does the duo fare? Well, let’s play along with the geographical metaphor to hit this one home, shall we?

The ten songs that comprise ‘Isles’ sit together like a circular archipelago in the Sea of Love and Heartbreak, which would probably be somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. Each ‘island’ (song) boasts its own very distinctive character, and most of them are stunning places to visit. ‘Just Another Girl’ is a lively place, brimming with soul and a hint of danger, while ‘Twisted’ shuffles in the wind to the sounds of soca and calypso. ‘Take Me Away’ has a flirtatious, indie-pop charm that proves irresistible. However, while there are plenty of places to party, ‘Isles’ also has some places where you can just admire the scenery. ‘Happy Home’ is a natural wonder of the shadowy dub much in the same vein as ‘Keep You’ but perhaps most beautiful island of all is ‘June’, which bobs on the waves with its glowing and slow-burning reggae. ‘Isles’ is a very pretty place that thankfully doesn’t really have any dodgy spots. You could probably skip a couple of islands if you don’t have time (‘Its Too Late’, ‘Love Like This’), but they are not at all bad, they are just less interesting than some of the other ones.

‘Isles’ biggest attraction though is the climate, which manifests itself in the form of Natalie Bergman’s voice. Effusive like an eternal sunset, Bergman’s breezy coo alternates between being a seductively slow, hot wind and an eerie calm before a tropical storm that keeps threatening to come. It really colours the experience you will have on each island and is essential to your enjoyment.

Silly metaphor aside, ‘Isles’ is a triumph of unique but gold-standard pop music. It’s not subtle, but it doesn’t need to be as it’s clever enough in all the right ways. Every song is easy to understand but compellingly roundabout in places (One line that comes to mind is from ‘Happy Home’: “I’m gonna cut my hair / Even if you say / I know it’s growing long / But I like it that way” – such a banal sentiment ends up sounding defiant). Every arrangement veers slightly left-of-centre, but at no danger of becoming too esoteric. These creative sensibilities, along with their reappropriation of tropical music traditions and electronic pop (electropica?), have become Wild Belle’s signature and it’s so great to see a band actually follow up on their promise.

All in all, with ‘Isles’, Wild Belle is sure to attract many visitors who will visit for a quick party, but end up staying on for the island romance.