Review Summary: A billion little lights, one solid follow-up album
After a somewhat mediocre self-titled debut album in 2014, Wild Pink followed up with a massive improvement in their sophomore release, 2018’s Yolk In The Fur. A mellow and meditative collection of indie rock tunes, Yolk In The Fur brought to mind the War on Drugs, although it toned down that band’s rockier and gazier edges into a quiet and peaceful musical venture, tinges of Americana on a placid indie foundation. While Yolk In The Fur had a few weaker tracks and suffered at times from overly repetitive lyrics, it was nonetheless a bit of a revelation for many listeners.
Wild Pink has now followed up their breakout record with a third release, the grandly titled A Billion Little Lights. It becomes rapidly clear the band didn’t want to shake up their formula too drastically. A Billion Little Lights very much begins where Yolk In The Fur left off, with a string of pretty and ambling indie tunes. Opener “The Wind Was Like A Train” aptly starts off quietly with some sparse piano notes, only gaining volume a few seconds later into the album’s runtime, a topical alert that this album won’t be one to blare as loud as possible in your speakers. Second track “Bigger Than Christmas” follows and stands as a clear highlight of the record, very catchy in a subtle manner. Fifth track “Oversharers Anonymous” is perhaps the best song here, and provides a glimpse of a possible future direction for the band, with its swaying alt-country melody. The band has always flirted with Americana, but never has the influence been so clear as here, and the melding of nostalgic twang with soft indie works exquisitely. Thematically, the songs here frequently reference natural scenery and geographic place names, which works well especially in connection with the beautiful album artwork. There’s also an underlying lyrical thread of mortality and death which periodically crops up, and adds a melancholy tone. Taken together, musically and lyrically, the album at its best is able to summon up the bittersweet feeling which older artists like Neil Young and Tom Petty (at his folkier moments) were able to master.
A Billion Little Lights is simply a pleasant listen throughout, and can function well as either background music or as a thorough listen. Anyone who enjoyed Yolk In The Fur will have no reason not to appreciate this one as well. For those who missed that release, any fans of the mellower side of indie rock will probably enjoy this one. That said, there are undoubtedly some critiques which can also be made. For one thing, the release treads a little near Yolk In The Fur’s admittedly successful formula, with relatively little progression. This feeds into the second critique, which is that, much like on Yolk In The Fur, several songs tend to suffer due to lyrics that feature lines repeated over and over. The track “You Can Have It Back” suffers especially egregiously in this regard. This isn’t to say that repeated lines are always a bad thing, but Wild Pink has generally been a sound band lyrically, and they may be better served to add a bit more lyrical variation in those places.
A Billion Little Lights is, taken as a whole, a solid release in its own right which should hopefully keep Wild Pink on indie fans’ radar. While the band has not advanced their sound dramatically since their last album, they have a solid foundation and it will be intriguing to see what musical path they pursue going forward.