Review: The Avalanches – Wildflower

It’s a rare, almost nonsexist occurrence when an album that takes many, many years to produce actually turns out good, and an ever rarer one when it’s great. It took Guns ‘n Roses ten years and millions of dollars to record and release “Chinese Democracy” and the results were less than stellar. My Bloody Valentine’s “mbv,” released in 2013, 22 years after their shoegaze masterpiece “Loveless” and a decade long breakup, is an example of one such album turning out pretty damn good, though not on the same level as their older work.

The Avalanches, however, are a different case altogether. Whereas Guns ‘n Roses and My Bloody Valentine had been successful for a number of years before these follow-ups, and had at least a couple of great albums under their belt, The Avalanches, before today, have had only a single one. “Since I left You” was released in 2000 to massive critical praise, and has since become a beloved cult classic, as well as a critical component to the popularization of plunderphonics. In the years that followed there was little to no information to be had on a follow-up. Since at least 2005 there were rumors of release dates, as well as struggles with production and sample-clearing. By 2014, the idea of a second Avalanches album had become a sort of pipe dream: a nice thought that, if it ever even happened, would probably end up being terrible.

But now it’s here. After 16 years, “Wildflower,” The Avalanches follow-up to “Since I Left You” has finally been released. And it’s fantastic.

A short fifteen second period of urban ambience titled “The Leaves are Falling” opens the album, and leads directly into “Because I’m Me.” A sample of horns and a child singing start muffled before dropping into a full on blast of warm, musical sunshine. It’s a moment that brought an immediate smile to my face, which became even bigger once hip hop duo Camp Lo began rapping over the music. “Because I’m Me” is instantly familiar, but appropriately distinctive. It feels like a direct, natural continuation/evolution of “Since I Left You” and it sets the tone of the album perfectly.

“Because I’m Me” flows directly into the bouncy, and incredibly fun lead single “Frankie Sinatra” featuring Danny Brown and MF DOOM. The idea of rappers over sampled beats created by The Avalanches works incredibly well especially on a later track, “The Noisy Eater” which features Biz Markie in probably his best work in decades, as well as a great Beatles sample.

The inclusion of hip hop is not the only new direction The Avalanches take here. A number of tracks, such as “Colours” (a standout), “If I Was a Folkstar” (featuring Tori y Moi), and “Kaleidoscope Lovers” take more of a psychedelic instrumental direction. The signature Avalanches sound (vintage, dreamlike samples) is present in each, but tie into the warm style that overlays the entire album.

The only real conplaint I can come up with is that some tracks, like “Going Home,” and “Stepkids” feel a little bit like filler in the grand scheme of things. But these are petty grievances, considering how wonderful this album is in the first place. By the time, the incredibly chill closer “Saturday Night Inside Out” which gives the impression of walking off into the sunset, fades out, I immediately wanted to listen again.

While it may not be exactly on par with “Since I Left You,” “Wildflower” is pretty much as close as possible. 16 years is a long time for music to evolve, and this record feels like a natural extension, with a style all it’s own, but with a musicianship that (amazingly) still holds up after all this time. If “Since I left You” was a winter dream, “Wildflower” is a Summer party.

After all the years and years of hardship the band went through in getting this album made and released, it’s something of a miracle that it ended up as good as it is.

8.8/10

 

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