Wild Belle is special. The duo, made up of siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman, writes pop music that takes inspiration from jazz, reggae, funk, and all sorts of other ridiculously fun stuff. This is a pop record that’s light on synth, and heavier on sax — not too mention insanely catchy.
In other words, Wild Belle is a breath of fresh air in what usually feels like a sea of mediocrity.
Their sophomore album is, by all accounts, not a slump in any way. It feels like an experiment: the duo’s style continues to morph from one song to the next, with one track feeling jazzy (like the opener Mississippi River) and the next taking clear inspiration from reggae (Losing You).
The album’s best tracks are the ones that are the most blatantly focused on the hook. There’s a lot of great moments here, and it’s easy to miss some: every track is peppered with great ideas. The more immediately memorable tracks include Cannonball, which has a great riff and sax line, Giving Up On Your (which feels as garage rock as this record ever could), and The One That Got Away, which feels like a tremendous slow burn (and a couple great verses).
Wild Belle is willing to flirt with slower, more melancholic tracks too. The best of those is It Was You (Baby Come Back to Me), which is a multi-layered track that impresses with both its styling and its composition. The chorus is particularly captivating.
Much of Wild Belle’s success is clearly owed to Natalie, who handles the vocals throughout most of the record. Her voluptuous vocal style is both attractive and unique, making her instantly recognizable despite the pop genre’s more familiar trappings.
But moving beyond vocals, Elliot’s musical additions are everything. The best tracks on Dreamland are filled with musical ambition that feels unparalleled in pop, and I suspect much of these ideas are the saxophonist’s contribution. Tracks like Throw Down Your Guns could have drowned in predictable mediocrity if it wasn’t for some surprising musical twists outside of the chorus; it’s these fascinating hooks that often separate Dreamland from the rest of the pack.
In short: Dreamland is one of the best albums of the year, a real treasure and a breath of fresh air in a genre that people don’t always associate with originality.