Newark Wilder re-imagines its sound with 'A Winter and Spring'
The experimental pop trio's second album is a dense patchwork of warm musical visions
Much like the fur lining that adorns the album’s cover-sleeve, Newark Wilder's latest effort, A Winter and Spring, is a dense patchwork of warm and imaginative visions.
Following the previous year of perfecting the brooding, post-punk sounds of Newark Wilder's debut album, 2016’s Vanessa Atalanta, for the group's latest effort, the Atlanta-based experimental pop trio has opted to take a more colorful and collaborative approach to emotional catharsis. Though once the primary outlet for singer, songwriter Ben Kinzer to showcase his compositional and arranging chops, over time the band has adopted a more communal identity, harnessing the talents of guitarist Chava Flax (of Bitter, Loner and Young Sirens) and drummer Nadir Baaset to push the band beyond its established musical comfort-zone.
While the heavy hip-hop and electronic music influence of the album’s initial singles "Concert by the Sea" and "Tightrope Walker" were a clear indication that Newark Wilder’s next release was going to be a different kind of animal, the range of the group's re-imagination of its music is downright surprising upon first listen. Most noticeably, the variety and sequencing to A Winter and Spring gives the album a pseudo-mixtape quality, as the band casts aside its established sound to paint with grooves and tones from a plethora musical styles.
Breaking from the traditional drums, bass and guitar instrumentation found on Vanessa, on A Winter and Spring the band expands its armada, incorporating drum machines, piano, strings, and a number of whirling synth lines. Utilizing these new tools, across the album’s nine tracks Newark Wilder presents its own take on different genres, such as hip-hop on "Brunch," synth-charged Funk on "Milk and Honey" and bouncing house/electronica-infused beats on "Concert By the Sea."
Elsewhere, the band takes time to dabble in loose, jazzy compositions that straddle the line between pop and the avant-garde. Kinzer’s classical music background lends itself to the moody string arrangements on the track “Heaven.” The understated piano and rain sounds on “No One Knows Where Ben has Gone” provides a nice contrast to the record’s usual, groove-heavy pomp. The record is not a complete 180° turn from Vanessa. However, as the album is peppered with callbacks to the group’s guitar-based roots, including the funky, noodling grooves of instrumental "My Mind is Your Mind," and the icy, lurching drive to opener "Intro (Cruise Collection)."
While the album’s more puzzling compositional elements are a bit front-loaded to the first half of the record, the multiple highlights and diverse soundscapes scattered throughout warrant repeated listens. For all it accomplishes, A Winter and Spring should have Newark Wilder fans excited for what all the band can achieve with their future experimentations. ★★★☆☆