Something to Smile About
There’s something special here, some tantalizing lore encompassing this very moment, stories of quilts on dewy grass and open topped sunny drives down city streets. The details bleed through each carefully stitched seam, all of which should be threatening to burst, but instead hold firm as a monument to whimsy and wonder in a world that is often so overbearing and bleak. This is The Avalanches, this is Wildflower, and this is what we’ve been waiting for since they left us those unimaginable 16 years ago.
Upon opening this album, it becomes apparent that this will be a journey unlike any other. It pulses with an incredible sense of joy as every single sample is so carefully placed that it feels almost careless. The album begins with three shots of aural sugar to the eardrum in the form of “Because I’m Me,” “Frankie Sinatra” and “Subways.” Each of these three tracks are so wonderfully decadent that each threatens to give the listener cavities and a November 1st bellyache. The Avalanches are wise to lay off the sweets for the next two tracks, which include the absolutely stunning “If I Was a Folkstar;” a song that calmly floats along but never lets go of the undying mirth that permeates each note of the modern masterpiece. “Colours” follows as a hazy dream, incorporating elements of dream pop by employing a bright droning coupled with birdsong and a light twinkling in the background to create a wholly dissociative experience reminiscent of floating above one’s body in the middle of a sunny day stroll.
The Avalanches then take this quiet opportunity to launch back into a world of decadence with “The Noisy Eater,” which is by far the most candy-coated track on the album. At first glance it feels like a misstep, but quickly worms its way into the heart of the listener, forcing them to grin and dance along with the noisy eater depicted in the track. “Harmony” is another light track, again allowing a reprise from the overbearing sweetness of the previous tracks, but still sizzles with a sugary residue that bleeds through the overwhelmingly nostalgic air of the song.
Nostalgia continues to be a theme of the next few songs all the way to “The Wozard of Iz” and peppers itself throughout the album as a whole. “Sunshine” is one of the major turning points of the album, its where the focus seems to shift outward into the world and into the future. Until this point the album had been largely reflecting upon joys of the present and past, only now does it turn that focus onto the outside world seemingly to spread its message of wonder out to a world that is so desperately in need of a smile. The final three tracks take this theme and run with it, using a slightly more subdued tone to allow the listener to enter a more reflective state all the while including high strings and light high hats that glaze the track with an optimistic tint, carrying their mantra smoothly into the ears of the listener.
There’s no doubt that this album has been sorely missing from everyone’s collection. Music in the days since The Avalanches have left has adopted a more somber, pensive anxiety that bled over from a post 9/11 society, often forcing us to dig up relics from the past in order to recall that youthful innocence that was once so prevalent. This album is important, it never bogs itself down with the fear of some great darkness that may lurk in the corners of the world, opting instead to light a torch and wander into those areas carrying a bright light, a steady and illuminating light that makes the whole of the world seem just a little less scary.
Even the inner workings of their sampling technique reflect this unstated mission. Instead of shying away in fear from outsiders, The Avalanches welcome everyone and everything with open arms and all are left better for it. Each influence melts and blends seamlessly into one another, creating a rich flowing tapestry that is much better than it has any right to be.
Make no mistake, The Avalanches are a relic of some bygone era, an era of people who dove fearlessly into the unknown and welcomed all they found, finding that the unknown often possessed some strange familiarity, a relic of an era where we were a happier carefree people. Wildflower is a monument to this era that The Avalanches managed to occupy despite the sixteen tumultuous years between their releases. This record is what the world hoped for, this record is more than just a feel good album for today or something to make people smile. This record is a testament to optimism, a monument of positivity, a shining light that cuts through the murky darkness of reality. It’s the feel good album of a lifetime.