Wolf Gang: Black River — There’s always been a steady stream of good music coming in from just across the pond, but every once in a while, it comes in droves. It’s been happening again recently, with pop of every caliber spreading like waves out to the world from the shores of that musically prolific island. Wolf Gang has been riding these waves, melodic and charming if not somewhat under-appreciated, and they’re everything that pop music, in its simplest form, should be.
Near three years after their debut album, Suego Faults, the London export has announced intentions to release a new full length album, and previewed three of the songs on Black River, an EP that marks their first piece put out with under Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records. It’s a catchy track list, the kind that gets into your head and just doesn’t seem to go away whether you like it or not. Electronically coated but wonderfully crystalline in production, the EP is a brief but cohesive assemblage of songs that are tailor-made to sing along with, whether you’re looking to bleat your heart out or lip-sync in sheer joy. Tinged with emotional sincerity, each track still seems to be made of enough of those upbeat, head-bopping melodies and harmonies.
Fleshing out the band has done wonders for the sound, too. Where early on it was the clear vehicle of one man’s side project, Wolf Gang has since turned into a full quartet, with a fifth added for stage shows. There’s a more cohesive, more developed quality to the recording that would be easy to call an indication of maturation. It’s not that, though. In many ways, it’s the beginning sound of a new force, of the band that has come from the project that was. It might be a preview of Wolf Gang’s sophomore album, but is arguably also a preview of the first time fans are hearing Wolf Gang, the group.
Track for track, it’s easy to tell what’s meant to be that quick and catchy single and what’s tacked on in an effort to broaden perceptions of the group’s repertoire. The title track, ‘Black River’, is about as radio-friendly as they make them, with chronically upbeat synth and steady indie rhythms underscoring the just-broad-enough-to-appeal-to-everyone, melancholic-but-still-not-giving-up love song. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good single, but it is every inch a single, and it seems like a song that’s completely aware of its place. The other two tracks, for their parts, diverge from ‘Black River’, though not so much from each other; both work in heavier electronic influences and are more appealing to those who want something with a bit more substance from the Wolf Gang.
The precursor to something so much bigger in the works, the Black River EP is an inviting preview of what’s to come from the little British project that’s making their way into a big name band. Its mix of lyrical sincerity and musical levity are a striking balance, and while it’s going to be a bit longer before we find out just what the more holistic iteration of this project is truly capable of, this is certainly enough to keep listeners ready and wanting more…7.0/10