"Roots And Branches"
May 27, 2014 - Epitaph
What started as a pop-punk band has blossomed into a whole other beast—or a whole other delicate flower, anyway. California duo This Wild Life have been creating a bit of online buzz with their acoustic tunes, and now with the backing of Epitaph, this debut full-length is only going to get more people talking, and for very good reason. These are outrageously well-written songs, played and sung with much skill and arranged in a way that goes beyond the standard two-guys-doing-acoustic thing: With extra instrumentation and flourishes all over the place, this never gets dull. Songs that their fans will recognize from earlier incarnations, such as the great "Over It" and even greater "Roots And Branches," are spruced up with different textures and sounds; drums even make some appearances, adding to the emotional impact.
Keen ears will note that the album pays more than a bit of sonic homage to emo-rock pioneers Copeland, and that's not without reason: that band's Aaron Marsh produced this album, and helped the band take their stripped-down sound to new amped-up (relatively speaking) levels. Heck, closer "405" finds the guys darn near rockin' out.
It's amazing that this album never gets cloying or annoying, given the sensitive-guy near-falsetto vocals (they soar like a leaf floating in the wind, and they sound great) and the whole acoustic premise behind the band. Really, the vocals are one of the duo's strongest points, but the entertaining and skillful guitar work is right up there, as is the songwriting dynamics and arrangement prowess. In other words, everything about this one is a winner.