Glen Hansard
This Wild Willing


4.7
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 17th, 2019 | 287 replies


Release Date: 04/12/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A rare and beautiful evolution from traditional Irish troubadour folk

It only took Glen Hansard one album to convince me that he’s a genius. I’m not well-versed on The Frames or The Swell Season – the two bands that preceded his solo career – nor was I aware of his 2007 rise to fame through “Falling Slowly”, his contribution to the Irish movie Once with Markéta Irglová. I’d heard of Hansard plenty of times, but never bothered with the three albums that led up to this one. And frankly I don’t care about any of that, because the only thing that matters to me right now is The Wild Willing – this gorgeous, epic, experimental indie-rock tour de force that came out of left field to quickly become one of the best records of 2019.

The Wild Willing floats in on the acerbically whispered ‘I’ll Be You, Be Me’, a subdued and brooding slow-burner that flickers with the intensity of a classic Brand New or Bright Eyes track. As it ramps up in intensity, strings join the mix to heighten the emotion, and then Hansard capitalizes on the momentum with fuzzy electric guitars and a haunting incantation of “ahh’s” that course through the melody like wisps of smoke. It’s the ideal opener, and it sets the tone for the kind of dimly-lit crooners that populate much of the record. Hansard then delves into sullen piano balladry on ‘Don’t Settle’, a dejected, Nick Cave reminiscent tune that somehow feels even more impressive than the opening track. About halfway through its six minute runtime brass horns join the mix, and Hansard shouts into the surrounding emptiness like Roger Waters on ‘In The Flesh.’ It’s this transcendent moment where he doesn’t sound much like a folk artist at all…nope, two songs in, Glen Hansard is more like a modern day rock hero.

The urgency of this record continues to pummel listeners on ‘Fool’s Game’, a moment that at first seems to be posturing itself as the album’s first tranquil song – but then, a little more than three minutes in – erupts into splendor. Clashing guitars, drums, cymbals, and choral harmonies explode out of the woodwork in a way that is totally unexpected yet somehow entirely appropriate within the context of the song. The outro is then graced by a lovely female guest vocal spot, singing in Iranian, as ‘Fool’s Game’ trickles into the distance. If you’re a cynic like me, you’ll find yourself wondering when the abundant creativity will finally plateau – something that doesn’t happen on ‘Race to the Bottom’, a jazzy number that features an infectious brass hook in between Hansard’s bleak passages, such as: “Even the gods as they gaze down on us, know that there's no one to be saved among us - they keep turning away, turning away.” This morose outlook is one that shrouds much of The Wild Willing; it’s almost an apocalyptic album in the sense that the dejection and hopelessness is so dense that it can be felt whether or not you analyze the lyrics. It’s in the air, all around, like a black cloud. The mood is driven home even further when you stop to realize what he’s singing about, such as on ‘The Closing Door’, when he chants, “…the end of people.” It’s chilling to the core.

Things do take a decidedly calmer approach across the record’s latter half, existing almost as a dark vs. light ying and yang concept. ‘Brother’s Keeper’ feels more like the Damien Rice-core Irish troubadour that I was expecting the first time I delved into The Wild Willing; pristinely plucked acoustic guitars and chime-like pianos share a gorgeous five minute space that feels like a ray of sun beaming into the valley of death. ‘Mary’ is a heart-warming ode to love, as Hansard sings, “I've never heard such a melody, as when you address me” to a bare atmosphere that is abuzz with swelling strings. The quaint, piano-driven delicacy of ‘Threading Water’ and ‘Weight of the World’ gives one the sensation of sinking into a shimmering pool; there’s a serene calmness throughout that exists in beautiful contrast to the austerity of the album’s first half. As the whole experience winds to a close, the lengthy, winding ‘Good Life of a Song’ ties everything together with a silver lining: “Let them see we came as equals, let them know we weren't afraid…and they'll feel your love of music, in every note you play.” Then, the final knot is tied on the glassy smooth ‘Leave a Light’ – a bare bones ode to moving on that is centered around Hansard’s voice and sparse acoustic guitar plucks, accented by timely violin flourishes.

My lack of context with respect to Hansard’s greater career precludes me from making exclamatory remarks about The Wild Willing’s standing within his own discography – but I can confidently assert that the record, independent of his own canon, is a standalone masterpiece. It’s the kind of album capable of captivating a new audience; an evolution from traditional Irish troubadour folk that is both dark and masterful. For the unwitting, The Wild Willing is a glorious blindsiding – a wake up call to this artist's creative chops. I’ll never be caught off guard by Hansard again; albums this good just leave a permanent impression.




Recent reviews by this author
Green Day American IdiotShura forevher
We Are Only Human Once The Prettiest Boys in TownPete Yorn Caretakers
Marika Hackman Any Human FriendThe Harmaleighs She Won't Make Sense
user ratings (105)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
neekafat CONTRIBUTOR (5)
I can see further when I'm with you...


Comments:Add a Comment 
anatelier
April 17th 2019


2875 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

butterscotch nick cave goes for a wander in the woods

Butkuiss
April 17th 2019


4608 Comments


Highly rec at the very least Swell Season's first release, which also served as the soundtrack for Once. Will be checking this.

ProjectFreak
April 17th 2019


3881 Comments


Well that was a heck of a review, and I'm going to spin this soon

edit: these songs are gorgeous. need to give it a few more spins to dig into lyrics and start distinguishing songs from one another, but the overall first impression is this is quite good

Digging: Infinity Shred - Forever, A Fast Life

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 17th 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, I actually felt it was rushed and a bit track-by-track by my standards. I just wanted a space to discuss this. Such an impressive work.

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

dmathias52
April 17th 2019


847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Another artist with an amazing backlog that you can discover for this year! "Once" means a whole lot to me, and the Broadway Cast recording is just exception as well.



I'm halfway through my second listen and this is so different from what I've expected, but in a great way. So far my one wish is that his voice was highlighted more, as the emotion he can pour into songs is almost unparalleled. But the creativity more than makes up for that.

Digging: Courtney Swain - Between Blood and Ocean

Kalopsia
April 17th 2019


3384 Comments


great review, i'm excited to listen to this whole album.
been a big fan of glen since i first saw Once.

i saw him live about two years ago and it was honestly one of the most emotional, powerful shows I've ever seen

MrTonytheGamer
April 17th 2019


51 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. This album feels like an incredible journey from start to finish. There is so much creativity in this album, and the climax of Fool's Game gave me goosebumps. This is probably one of my favorites of 2019 so far.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2019


902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes you really should go hear his other work.



And for those who already love him, watch the Amoeba Records performance from some years back. So good

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2019


16764 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thank you for reviewing this (:

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2019


16764 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's funny, I got some weird Roger Waters impressions from this too! And be sure to please please check The Swell Season's s/t, might be my favorite folk album of all time

luci
April 17th 2019


11669 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If this started on "Brother's Keeper" I'd probably 4 it. Not into the moments on the first half that sput users call "bombastic".

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 17th 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn first half is so good luci what's not to like? Second half is good too though.

anatelier
April 17th 2019


2875 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i can understand the viewpoint, the wall of sound burst in fools game is a little bit superfluous for me, but it does have the surprise factor working in its favour.

hadeserbonfa
April 17th 2019


226 Comments


didn't finish it yet, but the beggining impressed me big time, haven't heard his stuff since the second Swell Season release

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2019


16764 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think the first half is goddamn brilliant

Scheumke
April 17th 2019


1121 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I gelled way more with the second half of this, but only listened once. Needs more spins for sure. Brother's Keeper is fantastic and they can play Leave A Light on my funeral. That song brought me to legit tears.

Digging: Cult of Luna - A Dawn to Fear

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2019


16764 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'd like to suggest the term "post-folk" to describe works like this

dmathias52
April 17th 2019


847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, after more listens this is pretty phenomenal, but, vocally, it's just missing that special something for me. Which may be unfair to say, since he's 48 and may not have the vocal range he once did (this is pure speculation on my part). Instrumentally though, easily the most interesting thing he's made.

It also really makes me want some new Damien Rice.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 17th 2019


32091 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

post-folk is surprisingly on point



and I'd take this guy over Damien Rice (and I seriously adore Rice)

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2019


16764 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sowing you need to get on his earlier stuff (I've never heard the Frames tbf)



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy