Wild Ones, Mirror Touch (Topshelf)
[DREAMO] Youth and uncertainty have been the catalysts for a lot of the best emo music of the past two decades. While variations within the genre exist, a glimpse at the roster of the genre's standard-bearing label Topshelf Records shows it's still mostly just dudes with guitars. In light of this, it's both surprising and refreshing that Mirror Touch, Wild Ones' second full-length released by the label, has hardly any guitars or male vocals at all.
In their place is a dreamscape of crystalline synths, stuttering beats and the determined cooing of vocalist Danielle Sullivan. The electronic touch on the bulk of Mirror Touch's 10 tracks could stand up confidently next to known radio fare like Chvrches or Metric, but the quintet's compositions aim for introspection rather than dance floor domination.
At the core of Sullivan's disposition is an uneasy longing, which manifests as a reluctant come-hither call on "Standing In the Back at Your Show," the album's lead single. "All night/catching a feeling/I know it's wrong to try to lead you astray/I told I don't dream about you anymore/but I do," Sullivan sings over a shuffling backbeat and off-time organ stabs that pay homage to the sultry kraut-pop of Stereolab.
Sullivan's inner turmoil reaches a peak in tandem with the album's upward energy on "Love + Loathing," a spare and slow-burning anthem that nails the day-glo climax of regional EDM heroes Odesza without relying on "the drop" to make its point. The buildup is an outlier on an album that's more interested in steady movement than pulsing crescendos, but the end product is proof that Wild Ones can dip their toes in pop music's most accessible waters and still come out seeming smart and sophisticated.
Bookending Mirror Touch is the one-two punch of the aptly titled "Forgetting Rock and Roll," which finds Sullivan swearing off the boys club of the rock scene at large, and "No Money," a subdued, lo-fi dance song about the pitfalls of wanting fame and success more than you probably should. While most guitar-based contemporaries would adopt a "woe is me" approach to similar subject matter, Wild Ones have turned the grey areas of modern rock and romance into a neon-hued pop record that's bright and inviting for all.
SEE IT: Wild Ones play Wonder Ballroom, 128 N Russell St., with Tennis, on Thursday, Nov. 30. 7 pm. $15 advance, $18 day of show. All ages. Get tickets here.