Review Summary: Every moment we're together makes me hope it lasts forever
Folks, it’s been a long time.
are an Australian plunderphonics group formed in 1997. Their first, and thought to be their last, album Since I left You
was a critical and commercial success when it was released in 2000. Many consider it the best album of that decade, certainly of that year.
And now, almost 16 years after the fact, we finally have our follow-up record. Not an EP or a live album, but a true successor to their landmark debut. The 21-track, 58-minute long Wildflower
(much like its predecessor) has a “one-continuous-song” flow to it, with each sample meshing with the next, and each track leading perfectly into each other. While I would recommend a full, uninterrupted listening experience, you can listen to the songs individually and still get some form of enjoyment out of them.
After a brief prelude with “The Leaves Were Falling,” the album kicks off with the anthemic “Because I’m Me,” an ear-gasmic opener that is a perfect example of what the Avalanches are known for: Sample-laden electronic music that makes you want to get up and groove. Sadly, the main trouble with this album manages to sneak its way here, and that's the feature by hip-hop duo Camp Lo. Now, before you hip-hop fans attack me, I actually like their work here. They have a good chemistry with the track, and the verse is actually pretty well written. It's just... out of place here.
Let me explain.
You see, Since I Left You
was notable for creating entirely new pieces from preexisting ones. That's what separated it from other hip-hop albums of the time. It didn't need guest spots, because the instrumental spoke for itself. It was just that good. This time around, however, the samples and instrumentation are now forced to share the spotlight with at least one other artist. Guest appearances include Camp Lo, Toro y Moi, Jonathan Donahue, Biz Markie, Jean-Michel Bernard, Ariel Pink, Father John Misty, and many more. It's not that I dislike any of these artists; I actually enjoy quite a few of them. Its just that on an Avalanches record, one that already has a lot going on, adding features just makes it feel cluttered, and ends up detracting from the good aspects of tracks like “The Wozard of Iz” and “Live a Lifetime Love.”
As I said, not a big fan of having guest spots on an Avalanches record. "The next track won't be muddled by features, right?" At least that's what I had hoped, until I saw that the next track was “Frankie Sinatra,” sporting features by Danny Brown and MF Doom. While the extended version was what they used as a first single, "Frankie Sinatra" was many people's first exposure to the Avalanches. One of the more standard cuts off this album, it's definitely a decent starting place for anyone just discovering the Avalanches. It's a fun track, but definitely could be better.
As you go down the tracklist, you begin to notice a lot of shorter tracks. Now, the Avalanches are no strangers to shorter tracks sprinkled about their albums, but Wildflower
has quite the bloated runtime. Not to say these shorter tracks are bad. It's just that on an album clocking in at around 58 minutes, you better justify that runtime with fantastic tracks throughout, but these short-form tracks are just not up to snuff. With tracks like "Zap!," "Livin' Underwater (Is Something Wild)," "Park Music," and "Over the Turnstiles," it isn't a stretch to say that this album does have its fair share of filler.
While I do have my gripes with the album, for every interlude, there’s two great tracks waiting. The good on this album very much outweighs the "meh," and it all evens out in the end. From the wistful ambience of “Sunshine,” “Kaleidoscope Lovers,” and “Colours,” to more danceable tracks like “Subways,” “Going Home,” and “Harmony,” to even more left field entries with tracks like “The Noisy Eater” and the aforementioned "Frankie Sinatra." Tracks like these make the album, and they're all worth a listen or two.
Overall, another worthy album has entered Avalanches canon. Let’s just hope the next induction doesn’t take a decade and a half like last time. No, you know what? There’s no need to rush them. I’m honestly just glad they’re back.