Maybe it’s the constant rain, or perhaps the all-too-present grey skies in Vancouver that inspire the Shilohs to make such bright music. It could also be their obvious affection for 60’s British pop but no matter why, So Wild, their first LP is indeed a ray of poppy sunshine. Abundant harmonies and a clear focus on hooks make Beatles and Kinks references unavoidable. These influences are worn proudly upon the sleeve (the album cover too) and seem almost intentional in their frequency. Recorded at the renowned JC/DC studios in Vancouver, it was engineered by co-owner and producer Dave Carswell (New Pornographers, Tegan and Sara, Destroyer and more) and released by Light Organ Records.
The first song, “This Is Vancouver Music” begins with a few seconds of sound that resembles (you guessed it) rain. Piano then ushers in a Wings-era McCartney quality that is pulled off nicely and ends abruptly right before it becomes too schmaltzy. “Get Ready Now” bops along with a Motown drum beat and a smiley melody. It feels a bit like padding but pleasant padding. “Sister Rose” brings the early portion of the album into focus with a sort of breakdown/ harmony/chorus/outro that is gorgeously sung. “Man of the Times” has a total Muswell Hillbillies feel, replete with saloon piano, Davies-like vocals and a twangy guitar. “TV Action Jazz” is a bit kitschy with its pop culture references, which I felt the song could’ve taken or left.
I found the second half considerably stronger than the first. “LA”, a workingman’s lament set in Hollywood, “Little Valentine” a cutesy love song and “Airliner Man” with its vocals that mimic double-tracked guitars, combine to form the strongest portion of So Wild. The Shilohs find their legs here as the songs become more complex. “Airliner Man” in particular, is just right. The nod to “Taxman” is clear but it comes off clean.
“The Place Where Nobody Knows I Go” brings the lights down halfway and bridges the stylistic gap to “Over And Over”, a shimmery slow-dance number that conjures images of balloons and streamers but might feel a bit long amongst the numerous punchy shorter tracks.
“International Appeal” nudges the record awake with its pushy bass line and dual lead guitar and horn solos. “You Don’t Call Me Darling Anymore” is a strong closer and a proper sendoff. The earnest vocals are dead-on and the spacey accompaniment builds perfectly to keep the song from dragging.
Whether you like your references to bands-gone-by subtle or unabashed, So Wild never feels uninspired and the palpable feeling of joy within can’t be denied.
So Wild is available now on Light Organ Records