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Wilder Maker | Year of Endless Light

album review by John Powell

Wilder Maker | Year of Endless Light

Budding from the New York Anti-Folk movement, Wilder Maker decrees Year of Endless Light, a title that sounds like a fairy tale, while the music is contemporary spins on folk. Gabe Birnbaum, of Boy Without God fame, fronts Wilder Maker with his typical ease and tempered orations.

The stormy “Float Us From the Barroom” dangles on 4/4 country guitar strumming, much in the way Wilco did on Summer Teeth, piano and all. Most of the time you can’t understand what Gabe’s singing- almost like he’s drunk right there in the barroom- but he croons over major to minor falls, “Wild sky above us/ forever and forlorn,” setting an unromantic scene of hope in a hopeless world.

“Wasting My Time” cuts in with a different vibe. Country swing on buzzing guitars and cluttered bass contrast Gabe, sounding like Eddy Vedder taking on Willy Nelson. It’s a lot of fun, and it seems intentionally friendly after the intense opener.

The pretty “Slow Life” really brings out backing vocalist Katie Von Schleicher on the “Oh” introduction. The vocals play a big role on this befuddled track, and it shows Wilder Maker’s ability to utilize scarcity to achieve big things. “Oh that life/ it’s a love song/ all the time,” the chorus sings with beautiful poetics. “Watch the waves speak/ one word only/ over and over and over.”

“Song For the Singer” is the takeaway, though. Melodically royal, especially sung by Gabe’s baritone, the song needs very little in the way of instrumentation and just the right amount of vocal harmony, to do great things.

The closing “Holy Night” sounds like mellow Crash Test Dummies, balancing sobriety with inebriation, musically speaking. “Something won’t give me the will/ to not die,” the vocalists sing together. “You were not as kind/ when you took your hand from mine.”

Peppered horns and strings throughout the album, Wilder Maker creates beautifully composed neo-country folk, and make it seem not only easy to do, but rewarding. For followers of Willy Mason, Wilco, or other such playfully self-deprecating songrwriters, Year of Endless Light, is indie heaven.

Bottom line: A real treat of Anti-Folk, teased by horns, strings, sand and country balladry.


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