January 14, 2011

Douglas Martin is wildin’ out. No Nick Cannon.

The patron saint for lonely 19-year-old DIY-punk girls with hastily drawn tattoos, Cassie Ramone has gotten a lot of mileage out of her endearingly nerdy voice. With her nasally bleat and guitar made to sound like a rusty buzzsaw, she’s led Vivian Girls to new-school indie’s A-List with the band’s stone-cold classic self-titled debut and woefully underrated follow-up Everything Goes Wrong, proving that an artist can still go a long way with a broken heart and a $150 pawn shop guitar.

Splintered off from the band while “Kickball Katy” Goodman sweetened up her act as the songwriting nucleus of La Sera, Ramone teamed up with Woods bassist Kevin Morby and recorded an album of off-the-cuff, worn-in classic songwriting as The Babies. And while their forthcoming self-titled record is a modest triumph that is better than most people will lead you to believe in the coming weeks, the band wisely took the album’s two-track emotional centerpiece and decided to make a standalone body of work out of it. Enter The Wilds, a limited-edition seven-inch slated for release on LebensStrasse, featuring a pair of songs that have nothing to do with forest creatures or the NHL team from Minnesota.

Crestfallen, dissonant and dirgey, “Wild I” features Ramone at her darkest both musically and lyrically, using the imagery of a forest being chopped through as a metaphor for the slow demolition of a relationship, waiting by the phone and being awakened by argumentative screaming and severe stress headaches. The plaintive drone of Ramone’s voice trembles like it was connected by frayed wires to her shattered heart, no longer capable of sending a steady signal and transmitting the same sort of quiet anxiety that comes from utter dejection. “Don’t hurt me and I won’t hurt you,” Ramone sings, “What are we gonna do?”

If “Wild 1” is a chilling vignette set in the corner of a dark bedroom late at night, then “Wild 2” is the sun slowly ascending over the horizon. “Now I’m out under the sun,” Morby intones here over the deftly fingerpicked guitar line, “Going back where I came from.” By the time the tempo-changing lead to the chorus comes up, Norby’s hopping on the caboose of a train car headed out west, confident that his goodbye is more of a “so long, toots”. Then comes the cathartic, fist-pumping chorus: “Hey! Kid! It’s only love!” While the former of the two tracks carried an impenetrable air of despondency, the narrator of “Wild 2” is bravely optimistic, half-shouting, “We! Will! Ride again someday!” to the lover he is leaving behind, facing the uncertain future with a smile of reassurance and a pinch on the cheek. When the shronky guitar lines of the chorus rise above Morby’s voice, it’s the hard-fought uplift to a movie that he insists is not over. But even if it is, “Wild 2” is a hell of a way to cascade into the sunset.

MP3: The Woods-“Wild 1”
MP3: The Woods-“Wild 2”

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