By Jack Sharkey, March 25, 2016.

I first found out about The Wild Feathers two years ago or so via one of my Spotify channels. Their debut album was very good, and I had seen them on Austin City Limits, but it wasn’t until I caught the band’s set at SXSW last Friday that I realized just how very good this band is.

Wild Feathers Lonely Is A Lifetime Album

There was a time several years ago when rock & roll had such a bad name amongst the people who set the tone in the culture that good rock & roll bands had to hide under the guise of "Americana." I always thought this was a bit redundant because rock & roll is Americana. The Wild Feathers were categorized as an Americana band when the reality is, they are, and always were, a thoughtful, rafter-shaking, rock & roll band. Lonely Is A Lifetime hammers that point home. Let’s hope this record lets rock & roll come back out into the light and shake its fist at the trendsetters.      

  • Released: March 11, 2016
  • Length: 48:35
  • Produced by Jay Joyce
  • Mixed by Dave Sardy, Jay Joyce, Cameron Barton
  • Engineered by Jason Hall, Paul Cossette
  • Mastered by Howie Weinberg

 

The overall mix and production of the album is thick, without a lot of space between the notes. It’s a very good recording and the darkish mix completely meshes with the feeling the band is trying to evoke. I find it interesting that what I thought was The Wild Feathers’ biggest strength – their vocal harmonies – is been downplayed in the production and arranging. The formulaic move to make on a sophomore record is to overly emphasis the feature most people identify with, but it seems like there was a conscious effort to emphasize the band's musicianship and writing chops instead, and that’s a very good thing. When I picked this record up last week, I listened to their debut record first and then put this one on. The differences are there but the differences manifest as growth and confidence rather than some pointless search for artistic credibility.

 

Front-to-Back Rating: ⑩ There are no weak songs on this record.

Audiophile Love Rating: ⑤ Audiophiles may take issue with the lack of space, but then again, this is a rock & roll record.

Engineering and Mix: ⑧ Really nice capture of the rhythm section and acoustic guitars. I get that the vocals were de-emphasized, but maybe on the third record we can hear more of them. 

 

Side 1 opens with the jangly guitars and great hook of Overnight, the first single off the set. With the essence of the first album, the band writes and plays with the self-assurance of a well-seasoned touring band. They know who they are and they’re not afraid to let it out for all of us to enjoy. Sleepers finds them leaving the Americana label in their dust – or maybe dragging it kicking and screaming into the great musical reality – with its super-strong hook and stark vocals.

 

Channeling David Gilmour and friends circa Wish You Were Here, Goodbye Song does a couple things spectacularly well. First it shows a band that can absolutely kick your ass with musicianship, playing a song that is crafted and structured as well as any other “classic.” The fact that they weren’t afraid to sound like someone they weren’t (Pink Floyd in 1975) also speaks volumes about how comfortable these guys are with themselves. Pay close attention to the breakdown at the end of the song – yeah, these guys are that good. Don’t Ask Me To Change has some beautiful guitar interplay and channels a bit of REM minus the nonsense lyrics.

 

This might be a good time to talk about hollow-body guitars. In particular, hollow-body bass guitars. They are fabulous and I love them. When recorded right, you can feel the air and space moving inside the body of the instrument. That’s one of the coolest things about having audio gear that will play back what the artist intended for you to hear. Do your ears a favor and listen to this record on a system that will actually move some air and you’ll get even more out of what the band is saying to you.

 

Side One closes with Lonely Is A Lifetime, a quiet ode to loneliness with some beautiful harmonies that I would best describe as being on par with the best of the Eagles if I were writing this before people decided it was okay to trash the Eagles

Wild Feathers SXSW 2016

 

Side Two is the more energetic and slightly less desperate side and it opens with the simple hook and breezy intro of Happy Again. The intro pops into a restrained raver of a radio-friendly pop song (compliment!). This is a universal cry about places we all find ourselves in from time to time and when that cry comes in the form of a great song, well, then we all win. You can always tell when a band has spent a lot of their writing time on the road and Leave Your Light On is a road-weary tale with a surprisingly cool 90s-vibe chorus, plus there’s a wah pedal! And feedback! And 60 cycle hum at the end! Reality on record!      

 

Ten years from now, some record reviewer is going to don his VR Music Headset to review the latest offering from some cool new band by saying they’re the next Wild Feathers and the reviewer is going to point to Help Me Out as the Wild Feathers’ contribution to the influence on the next current wave of music. Don’t tell me there is no good music being made today. And while I’m ranting – Nashville, pay attention to On My Way because this is how you write songs about remembering first loves and freedom. Seriously, pay attention to this record, and while you’re at it, take note of Into the Sun’s mid-tempo ode to struggling musicians everywhere.

 

The set closes with a little Linn Drum and spaciness that closes the record on the exact right note – a little dark, a little alone, a little desperate, but no more so than we can all expect to feel from time to time. 

 

Wild Feathers Lonely Is A Lifetime is best listened to: 

  • While you’re asking the Universe why you’re such a screw-up all the time
  • When the neighbors are out so you can move some air for a while without the cops coming over
  • This is a beer record. I suppose hipster craft beer if you must
  • While you’re in a mood for regular old-fashioned rock & roll with a little angst thrown in, but you’re tired of the same-old same-old

 

The system used for this review: Vinyl on a VPI Scout turntable with KEF R300s powered by a Hegel H160 Integrated.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and not necessarily those of KEF or its employees.