The sophomore effort from Wild Rivers is called Sidelines and plays out like a coming-of-age story of learning about the key parts of the relationships we make along the way. The record was co-produced by the band and Peter Katis (The National, Interpol), and Wild Rivers appear to be get their footing pretty well in their songwriting craft. Led by the lead single, “Long Time,” a dreamy piano-laced duet that puts the pain of a break-up in the direct cross-hairs of the material, and yet the band continues to march forward in the hopes of better days ahead. This ten-song album plays out majestically as it captures the spirit of three musicians knowing their strengths, and still packs plenty of emotion throughout each of the tracks.
Sidelines opens cautiously with “More or Less,” and you can feel the heartache coming through the speakers as lead vocalist Khalid Yassein and Devan Glover harmonize to a well thought out, arena-ready crescendo that sets the tone for the rest of pop based material. “Bedrock” follows the overflowing opener with a more straight-forward approach to a pop song, with a simplistic beat that allows for the three musicians to showcase their vocal/musical talents more broadly.
The middle of the record picks up on the early songs’ momentum and brings some new contextual feelings to the material. “Stubborn Heart” is an example of when the band is best in tune with each other, and they sound like a mix between the modern folk of The Decemberists, paired with an homage to legacy acts like Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen. This song in particular made me a believer in Wild Rivers’ ability to craft crisp pop songs with a beating heart behind each line.
My personal favorite comes on “Amsterdam,” a song about the unknown beauty of life at your fingertips as we all enter young adulthood and the possibilities seem endless. This starry-eyed approach continues on the breathy vocals of “Weatherman” that unfold like a young Coldplay, with the modern sheen of Mumford & Sons.
Wild Rivers are at their best when they lean more towards the pop, rather than the folk-based approach to the songwriting, as this seems to be the “comfort zone” for the trio. For example, “Untouchable” feels like it’s missing more of that modern stylized sheen to it, while “Better When We’re Falling Apart” brings the Sidelines record back into focus, and just “fits” better. The closing duo of “Neon Stars” and “Safe Flight” round out the second record from Wild Rivers, and the future looks extremely bright for this talented group of musicians. The harmonies on “Neon Stars” are incredibly well thought out, and the balance between the two singers is something that will continue to strengthen over time. With so much great momentum being brought to the surface on Sidelines, I feel it’s only a matter of time before more music fans catch onto this band’s brilliance.