Album Review: A Billion Little Lights by Wild Pink
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
Pitchfork - 76 Based on rating 7.6/10
Wild Pink's A Billion Little Lights was born from the seeds of a more sprawling project, a double album about the American West that frontman John Ross eventually dialed back. Even in its abridged final form, though, the sense of sweep remains. Everything about the album's synth-heightened heartland rock is wired for maximum impact, from the production, which frames Ross' songs like aerial shots of the Grand Canyon, to keyboards that sparkle and glisten as if queued to a light show that for now exists only in Ross' head.
With each passing release, Wild Pink has settled into a mood that feels practical yet reflective and atmospheric. There's something comfortable about how the New York trio approaches their music, and their third LP, A Billion Little Lights, is no exception. Now, that might seem like a backhanded compliment at first glance, but that warm, snug feeling that permeates in their blissful heartland rock sounds natural and spontaneous.
Wild Pink's first two albums, 2017's self-titled debut and the following year's Yolk in the Fur, are hidden gems -- vocalist John Ross had quietly captured the numbing grandeur of classic rock poeticisms à la Tom Petty with a modernist bent. On those records, Ross sings as though he is forever staring out into the mountainous abyss, freely escaping the repetitiveness of the overstimulating New York City hustle, alongside slowly ascending guitars made for an impromptu highway drive out of town.
On their third full-length, A Billion Little Lights, the Brooklyn three-piece continue their understated outlook on contemporary living, not markedly hopeful or pessimistic in either direction but somewhere in between; realistic and in the moment.
After spending two albums putting the ‘heart’ in ‘heartland rock’, Wild Pink have branched out into more synthetic, more contemporary indie pop on this, their third (and first few new label Royal Mountain). However, this focus on electronic flourishes doesn’t diminish their position, or their sound – they’re still directly in the middle of a spectrum that runs from Death Cab For Cutie to The War On Drugs. Boasting a sound built around “fiddles, violins, wurlitzers, saxophones, accordions, pedal steel guitars, and a variety of richly textured synths and keyboards”, now enhanced with “speckles of auto-tune, flashing synths, and even triphop-esque drum loops”, Wild Pink’s creative force John Ross has constructed an album of full, fleshed-out tone poems that seem to alternate between immediately accessible indie pop cuts and washed-out ambient soundtracks, to fantastic effect.
It takes a willingness to forego the plain and logical truth that what we're actually seeing is a billion giant burning masses of hydrogen that hold no inherent meaning beyond the laws of chemical reaction. It takes trusting in our most romantic perceptions even while knowing them to be entirely fallible. It takes looking up in the first place. It takes humanity.