After one of the most critically acclaimed debuts in recent history, it seemed sensible for the Avalanches to create their second album following 2000’s Since I Left You, but after 16 years it becomes almost mythical.
Through last decade and a half, there’s been members diagnosed with serious illness, other members deciding it was taking too much of a toll, sampling issues and then their record label folded. On the face of it, it’s surprising that anything ended up coming out from the Avalanches, that it was the quality of Wildflower is astonishing.
On Wildflower, the Avalanches tend to switch between indie pop, that’s sometimes too twee for its own good, and hip-hop songs with impressive guests such as Danny Brown appearing on Frankie Sinatra and The Wozard of Iz.
Generally, it’s the indie-pop influenced songs that steal the show on this album. That may undersell much of the album’s charm though, through either sampling or writing specific for the album, Wildflower often flows from one song directly in the other. The merging between genres, isn’t new but it does mean the difference isn’t as jarring as it potentially could be.
These links between songs also highlights the biggest problem with the album, the length. It seems strange to suddenly criticise The Avalanches for releasing too much music after such a drought, but the first half builds up to a point that simply can’t be sustained throughout.
From the immediate “if she don’t love me, what can I do?” on Because I'm Me that has been rearranged from a Six Boys in Trouble track, there’s a sense of atmosphere and fun. The horn intro is beautiful and Camp Lo’s verse keeps the track fun. It’s a dance track without many of the usual tropes. As with many of the songs on WIldflower, it seems so effortless but as it’s deconstructed there’s such precision which explains why Since I Left You still hasn’t been bettered.
This follows into Frankie Sinatra, which works better in the context of this album than it did as a comeback single. Danny Brown kills his verse, as does MF Doom, which saves the song from an average chorus and instrumentation. That being said, it flows impeccably into Subways which again is just glorious. There is a risk that it may be more style than substance, a problem that carries on into Going Home. It’s never bland, but it does start to become increasingly predictable.
The next two tracks, If I Was a Folkstar and Colours venture into more dreamy and lush indie-pop, often psychedelic, territory. There are few surprises but these first 7 tracks demonstrate that the Avalanches have no problem living up to the hype they helped to exacerbate by their absence.
Sunshine, Kaleidoscopic Lovers and Saturday Night Inside Out do ensure that the album ends on a high, worth forgetting any missed opportunities in the middle section which is consistent, but there's few highs.
Wildflower is much more nostalgic than Since I Left You, and with that there is an air of safety. There are fewer surprises throughout the album, but when reflecting on Wildflower as a whole it’s clear that The Avalanches are still the masters of their craft.