I hate to bring myself too much into any review that I write, but I feel I have to with the debut EP by Alexander Wildwood, South of No North. I have personal issues with bad reviews of indie artists. It’s always been my opinion that the indie community, and that consists of the artists, the fans, and the critics, should all be working together for the positive proliferation of music. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a well-written review of a poor album. I love analysis of bad music, mainly because the concept of good and bad is totally subjective, so when someone makes an intelligent argument as to why something is bad, it helps bring us closer to the reasoning as to why people like or dislike music.
I’m starting this review this way, because I really do not like South of No North, and it is for many reasons. I will list them here and try to withhold the snark in favor of really explaining why this won’t be making any of my 2014 Best Lists.
Let’s start with his voice. Wildwood has an overly pronounced nasal whine, the kind of vulnerable vocal that works well for people like Ben Folds and Torque Campbell, but fares poorly for this New Zealander, sounding more like a Kiwi Al Yankovic. Additionally, his music sounds completely derided from mainstream pop rock, which adds from a bland, samey combo. While bands of worth such as Phoenix and Peter, Bjorn and John sound like they want to come through on this EP, I hear more Bastille than anything else, especially on the stompy opener “Bad Blood,” which sounds like an indie rock song written after listening to OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” too many times.
Lyrically, his words are basic James Blunt fodder — “Did you want them to love you the way you never though I could/Did you want them to say. ‘God damn, I think you’re your beautiful” is the opening line from the fourth track and it’s delivered in a sickly saccharine way this is just untenable. Musically the production is squeaky clean and pristine, which should work with a set of songs this poppy, but they only highlight how lacking they are in hooks. The EP’s closer “We Don’t Talk” comes as a near surprise though, as it reaches its home stretch. A flurry of crystalline guitars float above a steady beat which for a soothing and mildly invigorating climax – but if only someone could switch Wildwood’s microphone off, then you might have something
So there you have it. There’s plenty of info there to go on outside of just “this sucks,” but most of what is up there is more or less the guts of it when I say, “this totally sucks.” Still, to some (perhaps many!), what I find detestable about South of No North, can be totally what someone else finds to be its strengths. I hope those would-be fans find Alexander Wildwood, as there obviously is a lot of talent here in terms of basic composition, although I wouldn’t hold much hope from rising out of his bland, CVS-indie hole.