Since Wyldest’s debut album ‘Dream Chaos’ was released in 2019, founding member Zoe Mead has flipped the London-based act from a songwriting trio to a one-woman show. Last year, Mead reimagined the debut for the downtempo ‘Redream Chaos’, which placed her vocals front and centre for the first time. Before then, production of Wyldest’s dreamy, shoegaze-influenced songs had typically clouded her voice too much, making it hard to discern what she was singing about.
The reverb-steeped sonics of dream pop and shoegaze, of course, don’t lend themselves to understanding songwriter’s tales, but the trade-off is widescreen, awe-inducing sounds that make for visceral connections – and there are a fair few moments like this in Wyldest’s back catalogue, such as the sublime ‘Gravity’ (from ‘Dream Chaos’).
On the album’s strongest track, ‘Almost Bliss’, catchy, pan pipe-effect synths, shuffling beats and slide guitars nestle alongside Mead’s lyrics, which are seemingly about giving in to desire: “Tempt me at night… Can’t say goodbye”. Mead attempts to manifest some kind of climatic catharsis (“It’s taking over”), but her vocals sadly lack vim and sit quietly behind the instruments in the mix. Despite that, the song’s deliciously grooved riffs and synths rattle around your skull long after the track’s close.
Mead has said that Wyldest’s songs are intended to be blank canvases, lyrically speaking, so that listeners can interpret them freely. ‘Hollow’, according to a statement accompanying the album, is about challenging “corrupt governments” as a collective force, though “sleeping in the late night… I could never be just yours” sounds more like exploration of a personal, rocky relationship; either way, this driving, noirish track’s chorus is one of the album’s biggest earworms.
Elsewhere, slow-mo burner ‘Glue’ and the zippy ‘Arrows’ continue Mead’s lyrical preoccupations about being unable to sleep at night, either down to love troubles or existential worry. ‘Beggar’ and the Americana-tinged ‘Heal’ also deploy nocturnal metaphors for detailing failing relationships and situations. On the latter, Mead’s huskier tone gives powerful weighting to the tosses and turns of heartache: “Now your kingside bed is empty / And your TV set won’t sleep”.
As with ‘Redream Chaos’, Mead proves she can recast her music to stronger effect. ‘Monthly Friend’ might not be the progression we were quite hoping for, but there are sparks of more refined songwriting and tunes lifted by a bolder voice. An artist who’s so admirably dedicated to their craft is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Release date: May 28
Record label: Hand In Hive