WILD PINK – ” ILYSM ” Best Albums Of 2022

Posted: October 17, 2022 in MUSIC

The fourth full-length from Wild Pink, “ILYSM” unfolds with all the fractured beauty of a dreamscape. Over the course of 12 chameleonic tracks, the New York-bred rock band build another world inhabited by ghosts and angels and aliens, inciting a strange and lovely daze as the backdrop shifts from the mundane (subdivisions, highways, hotel parking lots) to the extraordinary (deserts, battlefields, the moon). But within its vast imagination lies a potent truth-telling on the part of singer / guitarist John Ross, whose lyrics closely examine his recent struggle with cancer. The follow-up to 2021’s “A Billion Little Lights” a critically acclaimed effort praised by the likes of Pitchfork, NPR, Vulture, and Stereogum, who named it “one of the prettiest rock records of the past decade”—“ILYSM” emerges as a truly revelatory body of work, transforming the most painful reflection into moments of transcendence.

When walking us through his new LP with his band Wild Pink, John Ross immediately notes that the goal for “ILYSM” was to go big without “getting too huge.” It’s the kind of vague talk musicians and technicians tend to share in the studio, with destined collaborators often capable of somehow knowing exactly what the other means when they utter non-technical directions like this, their mutual language leading to a level of creativity rarely tapped by some of the most tightly knit musical teams.

Such is the case with Ross and co-producers Justin Pizzoferrato and Antlers frontman (and amateur mycologist, evidently) Peter Silberman. As an extension of the impressive balance they create together, Wild Pink manage to walk that tightrope with additional contributions from a diverse list of artists including Julien Baker, Ryley Walker, Yasmin Williams, Ratboys’ Julia Steiner, and J Mascis—the latter’s ripping guitar solo, like the raging riff that tears through the title track, managing to greatly expand the scope of the otherwise-fairly-tranquil heartland rock tune without pushing it into excess.

The result is a patchwork of sounds centered in folk-rock ballads and baroque-indie revival informed by everything from the microfolk of Iron & Wine to the epic-scale shoegaze of Jesu. With the album out read through Ross’ track-by-track breakdown of “ILYSM’s” 12 flavorful songs. 

1. “Cahooting the Multiverse”

“Cahooting the Multiverse” is a microcosm of the album lyrically and musically. It’s about death, the afterlife, and all the mundane things before you get there. It’s one of the bigger tunes on the album, and I knew I wanted to start the album with a fuller sound—but as a whole, I wanted this album to avoid getting too huge. 

2. “Hold My Hand” 

This is basically a love song told through the experience of someone having surgery. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted it to be a duet, and I’m super grateful to Julien for joining me on it. This was one of the first songs we rehearsed together as a band in the studio, and David’s piano part felt great almost immediately. There were a couple moments like that in the recording process where a song just immediately fell into place as soon as we started playing it.

3. “Hell Is Cold” 

This song is about nostalgia and moving on, and I wrote it in the middle of winter. I like the way the groove came together at the end. Definitely inspired by Sam Beam and Sparklehorse.

4. “ILYSM”

This song, like a few others on this record, takes place where I live and the field next to it. It’s a metaphor for love and obsession about someone visited by a ghost and feeling confused about their feelings for them.

5. “St. Beater Camry” 

This song takes place in Miami. It’s about a young person escaping a dangerous domestic situation in the Northeast and making her way down the coast to Florida. She named her car St. Beater Camry.

6. “Abducted at the Grief Retreat” 

This is one of the first songs I wrote for the album and was inspired by Signs and the show Surviving Death. At its core, this song is a metaphor for obsession, and the protagonist is completely in love with their alien abductor.

7. “War on Terror” 

This song is set on the beach at night. There’s also a vignette about someone briefly dying and coming back to life while fighting in the Bosnian War. True story! Jeremy’s clarinet playing along with Mike’s pedal steel at the end is one of my favourite parts on the record.

8. “Simple Glyphs”

This song is about dying and how the older you get the more life feels like it’s closing in on you. I love how the bass solo in this song turned out. Big Peter Hook vibes going on, and Ryley Walker’s guitar playing on this tune just rules.

9. “See You Better Now” 

“See You Better Now” is the most straightforward love song on the album, and definitely inspired by Tom Petty and Traveling Wilburys. It was one of the last songs I wrote for this album, and a really fun song to record in the studio. It’s still wild to me that J Mascis did the guitar solo on it. 

10. “Sucking on the Birdshot” 

This song is about some sandhill cranes down in Florida who were mated for life. One of them died by the side of the road and left the other to mourn. One of the heaviest things I’ve ever seen. Big-time Jesu inspo going on here, but also Talk Talk in the middle part.

11. “The Grass Widow in the Glass Window”

On the surface this song is about a dead hardwood tree that has golden oyster mushrooms growing all over it (thanks to Peter Silberman for the mycology lesson). That felt like a good metaphor for how I was feeling at the time when I wrote it. It all takes a turn by the end toward acceptance, and Yasmin Williams’ beautiful guitar playing touches on that. 

12. “ICLYM”

This was the last song I wrote for the album and is supposed to be a coda to “Cahooting the Multiverse.” It feels like a bookend to me with Peter joining in with vocals, which he also does on “Cahooting.” Like “Cahooting” it’s a stream of consciousness song. I enjoy writing that way because I’m able to say things without much context, which is fun because sometimes I don’t fully understand the lyrics until after I write them.

John Ross: Vocals, Guitars and Keys
Dan Keegan: Drums and Percussion
Arden Yonkers: Bass and Keys
David Moore: Piano, Banjo and Farfisa
Jeremy Viner: Saxophone and Clarinet
Peter Silberman: Vocals, Guitars and Keys
Mike ‘Slo Mo’ Brenner: Pedal Steel
Julien Baker: Vocals on “Hold My Hand”
Samantha Crain: Vocals on “St. Beater Camry”
J Mascis: Guitar on “See You Better Now”
Julia Steiner: Vocals on “ILYSM” and “See You Better Now”
Ryley Walker: Guitar on “Simple Glyphs”
Yasmin Williams: Guitar on “The Grass Widow In The Glass Window”

released October 14th, 2022

Songs written and produced by John Ross

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