Wild River is a band that can get lost in the shuffle. For a year or two, I had a difficult time separating the bands Wild Child, The Wild Reeds, Wild, and Wild Rivers. Then Kelsey Wilson emerged and gave me a greater sense of who Wild Child and eventually her new persona Sir Woman were. For me, this is the album that lifts Wild Rivers, like Wild Child before them, out the muddle.
Sidelines is a soulful-melancholy-folk album that reliably anchors itself in Devan Glover’s bright/course vocal quiver. What feels different is Khalid Yassein. Always a reliable vocalist who could harmonize and at times create moments (listen to “Heart Attack” from the band’s self-titled album), Yassein shines through in “Bedrock” a pop tune seeping with despair. The song opens with the line “I got this friend I like to carry on my shoulders.” It is Yassein’s emergence that brings a new balance and elevates the band and this album.
I usually step through an album track by track, but for me, this album is a collection of musical moments. The signature sad song, “Amsterdam,” reliable turns to Glover’s exceptionally emotive talents. The pop songs “Stubborn Heart,” with its George Harrison guitar licks, and “Bedrock” smartly feature Yassein. This is a sound the band should continue to explore. “Weatherman” and “Neon Stars” mostly feature Glover and Yassein singing together. Then there is “Better When We Fall Apart.” This may be my favorite track on the album because it brings all these stylistic choices together. There’s a bit of Yassein’s pop-savvy, Glover’s emotion, and those moments when they sing together and create the Wild Rivers sound that so many of us fell in love with their first album.
This album doesn’t have a break-out tune like “Wandering Child” on it. But track for track its Wild River’s best work and it shows the band is still evolving.