Expectation: 2016 has seen several long awaited album finally become reality, and perhaps none was anticipated for longer than The Avalanches. Following their debut album Since I Left You in 2000, the Australian plunderphonics group has been teasing a sophomore album since at least 2005. Despite losing the majority of the group’s original members, Robbie Chater’s persisting presence gave fans hope that the album could live up to over a decade of anticipation. Wildflower features a variety of guest collaborators, including Danny Brown, Father John Misty, and Biz Markie.
- Because I’m Me – My favorite track on the project, and potentially of the entire year. The song is joyous and dynamic throughout, with every listen revealing new layers to the brilliant instrumental. From the trading off horns & violins, to the layered vocal elements, to the split guitars with electric to the right and acoustic to the left, the variety of textures created by samples of different recording quality. Also, it has a great video.
- Frankie Sinatra – The album’s lead single, featuring Danny Brown and MF DOOM, who are absolutely perfect for the bizarre, polka-inspired instrumental. The track definitely makes Danny the star, but the Avalanches’s part is still excellent, as the variety of samples weave in and out of the beat. Oh, and this one’s video is good too.
- Subways – A fantastic electronic dance track, teasing each element of the groove individually before launching into the fully-realized song. The rhythm and melody remain consistent, but move forwards and backwards in the mix; sometimes the melody is the centerpiece of the groove, at others it only lingers in the background.
- If I Was a Folkstar – Another outstanding electronic track with a quirky melody, as well as some soothing vocals from Toro y Moi.
- Colous – Making use of reversed drum sounds alongside unaltered ones to create the beat spectacularly circumvents the typical issues of using a reversed drum beat, and the reversed vocals in the background melody sound great underneath Jonathon Donahue’s happy-go-lucky verse.
- Zap! – Just a lovely melody. Very melancholic but peaceful.
- Noisy Eater – Is there anyone better fit for a track this goofy than Biz Markie? Everything about this track is lively and fun, with a variety of lyrical nods to classic hip hop tracks such as ‘Scenario’ and ‘The Message’.
- Wildflower – I don’t know why the title track is half skit and half slow waltz, but as an interlude its fine I guess.
- Harmony – The Avalanches’s ability to make a repetitive melody varied and interesting is insane. Despite being a series of loops over a steady beat, these electronic tracks are engaging the whole way through.
- Live a Lifetime Love – One of the stranger tracks on the album, but still outstanding in its own right. The juxtaposed elements are disparate in tone and recording quality, but The Avalanches somehow connect everything together with ease.
- Livin Underwater (Is Somethin’ Wild) – The first of 3 consecutive tracks where nothing happens and its very pleasant.
- Sunshine – The way that The Avalanches bury the drums under the mix to develop the melody then drop in a clear, crisp beat and create a moment of clarity in their songs is amazing.
- Kaleidoscopic Lovers – The Avalanches pull together who-knows-how-many samples to create their own gentle, ever shifting melody, before settling into a pattern to provide a psychedelic foundation for Donahue’s melody.
- Stepkids – When else can you hear strings and woodwinds and dueling pianos backing a simple, folksy melody like this?
- Saturday Night Inside Out – One could write an entire essay on the composition of a single track on this album. The layers here are so carefully arranged and juxtaposed against one another, the spoken-word samples build upon the underlying theme without tying it to a literal meaning. Its incredible.
Overall: The Avalanches did the impossible. After 16 years, they delivered an album that was worth the wait. The sound is formed from the same dense sample collages as Since I Left You, but whereas the group’s first album sought to recreate the balance of 1960’s music like The Beach Boys, here it is focused and concentrated by the expectations of modern electronic or hip hop. Despite this, the music is still rooted in 60’s and 70’s melodies, and the contrast between these elements gives Wildflower its incredibly unique, almost psychedelic sound. Every song is refined and balanced, but simultaneously erupting with life. The disco elements are less pronounced, and there’s no “Frontier Psychiatrist” track, but fans willing to look past those things will see that Wildflower is every bit as much of an incredible journey as its predecessor.