Some music helps you remember. Some helps you forget. Sometimes you listen to music to work against an emotion, like when you want to cheer yourself up or snap out of a destructive train of thought. Other times, you hit “play” to extend or enhance what you’re already feeling, as if “love” or “alienation” had a bobsled in the Olympics, and you decided to hop on in for the slickened, linear ride. And then there are the times you listen to feel all those things at once — to engage in a chaotic catharsis that feels clean and messy and scary and comforting simultaneously. That’s Wolf//Goat’s wheelhouse, and their new full-length, In Watermelon Sugar, satisfies my craving for well-constructed chaos in a most buoyant, life-affirming way.
The first thing that hooked me on Wolf//Goat was their blend of instrumental sounds. Piano, banjo, electric guitar and violin all offer good, strong personalities that can punch through any mix, and I love the group’s decision to join these elements in an unbridled, American-sounding timbral overflow. It feels crazy and joyous, and different shades of this bold color scheme can be found from track to track on In Watermelon Sugar, but that compound, crazy-joyous feeling never dissipates. So many groups struggle to find a sound that’s uniquely theirs, but Wolf//Goat seems to have found one right off the bat, which is no small feat.
Ben Wolf’s lead vocals exhibit the same knack for marrying chaos and comfort. Maybe it’s the group’s name that got me thinking along this vein, but he can sound positively bestial at times, growling his way through some of the album’s most memorable moments. That said, it’s the sweetness of his tonality during calmer sections of songs like “Cellar Door” that gives the aggression heart and soul, so lines like “It’s time to fuck around” feel more like a culmination than an interjection. The songs themselves follow a similar trajectory, with menacing crescendos and periodic background shouting that evidence a clear focus on dynamics, despite the fact that the album spends a great deal of time on the heavier end of that spectrum.
One quick parting note about In Watermelon Sugar: I listened all the way through for the first time while running, and realized almost immediately that I’d screwed up the playlist and was hearing the songs in alphabetical order instead of start-to-finish. So imagine how creeped out I was when I heard the lyrics ”Who knew this would be the beginning of the end?” in the very last seconds of “Young Fall,” which should be track 6 of 11, but instead brought my playlist to a close. I mean, WTF? How spooky is that? I know the universe works in some pretty weird ways, but I can’t remember a time when order and disorder were fused together so completely. Dr. Ian Malcolm would almost certainly approve.
Check out a pair of personal favorites from In Watermelon Sugar below and click here to snag the album from Bandcamp for as low as $3.