Everyone knows about the supposed difficulty of the sophomore album (‘supposed’ because the number of acts that ultimately disprove this theory grows on a daily basis), but on paper, This Wild Life could’ve suffered more than most. As well as being a pretty strong album in its own right, their debut Clouded was the perfect introduction to a duo who were a welcome novelty to the scene, peddling simple, almost entirely acoustic jams with their hearts emblazoned on their sleeves. But because of such a simplicity, their entire stock could’ve easily been exhausted on one album.
Fortunately, Low Tides has enough to keep it familiar, but mark it out as a definite progression. The core dynamic remains the same – Kevin Jordan and Anthony Del Grosso both gently patter away on acoustic guitars and dish out featherweight vocal harmonies – but subtle instrumental inclusions like dreamy atmospherics, sandy drums and weaving, sinuous horns add a fresh dimension, and flesh out their brittle sound a bit. Such additions are palpable throughout, offering a wider range of sounds that Clouded did but also emphasising the beauty in This Wild Life’s sound. The hazy bed of electronics in opener Hit The Reset sounds absolutely gorgeous, as do the swirling strings that come in on Fade, and Falling Down even falls into the mould of glistening, tropical indie. The lushness of this album can’t be understated, combining with the pair’s porcelain vocals and heartbroken lyrics for an album that’s sonically stunning in places.
Of course, Low Tides won’t be everyone’s cup of tea for a few glaringly obvious reasons. In its barer moments like Break Down and Just Yesterday, it can feel incredibly lachrymose and syrupy, in no small part thanks to Jordan’s wispy vocal delivery and guitar lines so frail and glassy they sound like they’d smash if you so much as looked at them the wrong way. The vocals are most likely to be the biggest turn-off when it comes to this album – Jordan never over-emotes, but there’s such a glassy earnestness, especially in his falsetto contributions on closer Brick Wall, that they alone coat these songs in another coat of sugar that, for some, will be completely unpalatable.
It’s hard to look at This Wild Life too harshly for these factors though, because really, they’re what make Low Tides the album that it is. It’s more convincing as a raw, emotional confessional than a lot of other albums mainly because of its fragility and personal sound. There’s a believability and a relatability to it as well; for all the smolder and ethereality this album has, it remains down to earth in its extolling of the universal emotion of heartbreak in such a convincing fashion, like in the tear-stained Fade or Red Room‘s tales of late night drunk texts. It could do with a bit more power in areas to truly hammer its point home, but Low Tides highlights a feeling of solitude in its presentation that’s still effective.
But still, even with its clarity in execution, Low Tides is still only a good album rather than a great one. Both thematically and instrumentally, it feels as thought This Wild Life are treading the same ground as their debut, and even with the additions to the latter, the overall effect they have is relatively small. It definitely shows that This Wild Life are on the right path to something a bit more varied though – they’re building on an already solid foundation with a resoundingly positive outcome. And with a second chapter that’s just as strong as the first, This Wild Life are on the right path to great things.
For fans of: Dashboard Confessional, Koji, City And Colour
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Low Tides’ by This Wild Life is out now on Epitaph Records.