Wild Belle – Isles
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: March 12th 2013
How many times have you listened to a record, and thought, “Wow, this is a very unique record,” or “Wow, this band has a very original sound”? If you’re like me, your answer is “Not many times.” Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also the easiest way out to become an unoriginal and generic band. Well, that’s not the case for Chicago duo Wild Belle, whom is a band that I have recently heard of, because the band released their debut record a couple weeks ago. Every so often, I like to look at the Billboard 200 charts, just to see how records are doing, and if there’s anything on there I like (spoiler alert – there always is something I like), and I came across Wild Belle’s debut record Isles pretty far down on it, but I was curious about it. I went to the band’s page on Billboard’s website and there wasn’t anything on it, so I was even more intrigued. Well, I was at my local Best Buy, because I had some cash to spend, so I managed to find a copy of that record for only $8.99, which is a good deal, because that’s how Best Buy prices most of their indie-rock records. I’m surprised it wasn’t on sale, but that’s okay, because it’s still a good price. Despite literally have never listening to a song by theirs, I picked it up, because the artwork was pretty, and they must be good if they’re on the Billboard 200, right? What I found when I listened to the record was very “chill” indie-pop with jazz, funk, ska, and reggae influences. This is nothing I’ve ever heard, to be totally honest. I wouldn’t say that if I did not mean it. I absolutely adore this record, and I was completely surprised as to what I found. The main driving force of this record is the instrumentation. Every song flows well together without blending into one another, so the songs are unique and memorable, but still cohesive. This is a balance that not many records seem to share, and this is a very impressive debut album from a band that I’ve literally just heard of a few days prior to writing this. Of course, vocalist Natalie Bergman (one part of Wild Belle, who is composed of siblings Natalie and Eliot Bergman) and her interesting as well as abstract lyrics do help to make this record wonderful, they make me think of Lana Del Rey if she were more emotional in her vocals, and if her lyrics were bit more straightforward. Natalie’s voice is unique, but yet at the same time, it fits perfectly within the genre, or rather, mixture of genres. It works quite well, and in fact, this whole record is a great listen from start to finish. But let’s abandon the isles, and look at this record, shall we?
The record begins with “Keep You,” and immediately, the record starts with a bang. Natalie’s dreamy vocals start the song off with a reggae meets indie-pop vibe. That’s what the whole record really sounds like, and like I said, it’s nothing I’ve ever heard. The song itself is quite breezy, as is the whole record. The lyrics of this song are really weird, though. They’re interesting in that “this is so weird, but I like it” kind of way. They seem to be a bit confusing, because it’s about how Natalie is in love with a man who treats every woman terribly but her, and she doesn’t understand why he won’t keep her. Halfway into the song, a saxophone weaves its way into the record, and it makes the song a lot more engaging. This is a band that absolutely amazes me, because I’ve never heard anything like it. I really haven’t, and it’s so refreshing in this day and age. If anything, this song makes me excited for the rest of the record. This one of those records where every song is really awesome, but some are better than the others, and the opening track is one of them. That’s one of my favorite tracks from the record, hands down. Second track “It’s Too Late” is a bit lackluster, in the sense that it doesn’t do much for me. It’s a good track, but ultimately, it falls to the wayside compared to tracks like “Keep You,” and third track, “Shine,” which is the longest song on the record, but my one of my favorites. I love the lyrics on this song, and it’s another cutesy track, with the main “hook” of the track being “I got a lover, he puts the shine in the sun.” The track is another light and breezy track that’s good to play during the spring, despite how winter seems to still be around. Hopefully it won’t be around for much longer, though. Back on track, however, the next few tracks are more or less of the same, and while the sound is unique, the tracks that really stand out are the ones with reggae or jazz-influence. A track like “Twisted” doesn’t really stand out too much, just because it has a very straight-forward indie pop sound, but the lyrics are interesting here, too, especially with the main lyric being, “What’s the definition of love if it isn’t material things?” It makes Natalie appear shallow, but her vocal delivery almost makes it seem like she wants us, the listeners, to be sympathetic towards her.
Another very unique and interesting track that really stuck out to me is fifth “Happy Home.” It’s a rather slower track, and this track has a very bluesy kind of vibe to it, rather than reggae or jazz. It’s much slower, and more of a relaxed track. It appears at the halfway point of the record, which is really weird, but it doesn’t slow the record down at all. This follows with “Another Girl” which is another bluesy track, where Natalie is talking about how she was just “another girl” to someone, most likely the man she was talking about in a few other tracks, but it’s a rather nice song, albeit that it’s a bit sad. Coincidentally, a much happier song comes next, “Love Like This,” which definitely is the polar opposite of what “Another Girl” is talking about. It’s much brighter, and gives the album a much better mood. Sadly, though, the last three tracks are a bit lackluster, with the exception of ninth track “When It’s Over,” and this track I really like because Eliot sings for the majority of this song, and I really wish his voice was on the record more, because if they both sang, their sound would be even more unique than it already is. That’s a minor gripe, but this song is what I wish the rest would’ve been like. The last couple tracks, however, are just a bit lackluster compared to the rest of the record. “June” is a nice breezy indie-pop track that doesn’t really add too much to the record. “Take Me Away” is the shortest song on the record, but it’s a nice little track that ends the record nicely as well. It doesn’t do much for me, but it is a good track to end the record with, because it does end it on a happier note.
Overall, this record is truly something I’ve never heard before, and I can’t say that all too often, because I feel like I’ve heard almost everything, in terms of my favorite genres, anyway. While it may seem quite shallow that the reason I picked this up to begin with was the very nice artwork, and seeing the record on the Billboard 200, but I was very surprised with what I found. It’s a very light, breezy, indie-pop meets reggae, blues and jazz kind of record. There are some tracks that lean towards jazz, blues, and reggae, and you have the more straightforward indie-pop tracks. The record itself is definitely something to marvel at, and I would certainly recommend it to any indie fans. It’s a bit different from the norm, which is good. I can honestly see tracks like “Love Like This,” “Keep You,” and even “Shine” getting some recognition, and maybe they might become a sleeper hit, kind of like how folk/American trio The Lumineers were. They creeped up in the mainstream slowly over time, and no one really saw it coming, which is the best part. I feel like the same could happen to this band, but only time will tell.