Epic Handshakes and a Bear Hug, Wild Honey

Lazy Recordings, Spain
Rating: 83
By Carlos Reyes

If you’re able to look away from such a beautiful artwork, let point out that this album has been standing around me for a while. The psychology behind it makes this album hard to analyze and harder to give a rating. After numerous spins and many days of going in and out of it, most of my concerns with the album have evolved into virtues. Like Bigott or Antoine Reverb, Wild Honey’s decision to sing only in English doesn’t translate as a problem at the time of retrieving emotion or making their themes come across fluently. Epic Handshakes and a Bear Hug is the debut and proclamation of Wild Honey, a great new act charged with good-to-great songs and boosted by its wall-of-sound timbered spirit.

It’s important to emphasize the need for repeating spins if possible on a prolonged time; it’s really the only way to fully appreciate the album’s simplicity and how at the end everything sums up to “a big parade.” This is the overall endearing project of Guillermo Farre and his friends, based on Madrid and bringing hooky melodies for hooky hearts. They got the potential to internationalize following the Pitchforkian trends and the fair offering of European acts that are able to prosper with such audience. Wild Honey sounds a bit like Real Estate, The Mountain Goats, Woods, perhaps even Camera Obscura. One would expect such an album to drown in its influences, but they pull it out adding their own spice: a calculated dose of twee pop.

The album opens with the whimsical “Whistling Rivalry”, a nice ukulele based track with handclaps and whistles about aging, “Were we ever that young?” It follows with the moistly and beautiful “1918-1920”, which serves as the sonic landscape of the entire album. Some songs reach such a level of intimacy that one would swear a couple of newlyweds are singing them. At the other end, it’s able to be politically conscious in “Kings of Tomorrow” by trusting their piece of music rather than making some kind of boring political statement. In a way, they serve upon folk to spread the message. “One Word Prayer” struggles to structure its lyrics, so the vocals are changed into a state of uncommon accelerations that although rushed, work great in a song about mourning.

In “Gold Leaf” they manage to relocate their folksy sound to make a bossa-nova chant bright and simple. Most of the album carried by Guillermo’s vocals (he sounds a bit like Jorge Drexler) but occasionally a girl or two show up to steal the attention, in this song they sound as beautiful as Natalia Lafourcade. They even manage to make a rolling road-travel song out of the self resolved “Brand New Hairdo”, “I’ve got a brand new hairdo just to persuade myself that life has order and direction, and that there’s a place where I’d like to be.” Wild Honey holds a monumental-like disposition that carries its power of simplicity quite well, while managing to sound big and tall in its dynamics.