In a time when popular music seems to be developing without a shred of remorse for its own hyperbole, an indie pop band that displays thoughtful restraint in its innovation can make a bold statement in a subtle way. It is for this reason that Austin-based band Wild Child should be honored for their latest release, “Expectations.” The album feels like a successful continuation of Wild Child’s tracklist, not a deviation.
“It feels sustainable,” vocalist Alexander Beggins said in a 2013 interview with AXS — a digital marketing platform for purchasing tickets for sports and entertainment events in the U.S. and overseas. “It feels like the more fans we acquire, we kind of take them along for the ride with us. It’s a group effort. Slow growth, but the growth that we want.”
Five years later, their newest album certainly lives up to that aspiration. “Expectations” introduces variety and rock influences to the band’s arrangements while retaining the sound from its earlier releases. The 2018 album relies less on duets between Beggins and Kelsey Wilson, a combination which defined earlier albums like “Fools” and “The Runaround.”
Wild Child is known for their relatable, genuine lyrics that explore the possibilities and shortcomings of romance. “Expectations” follows this same pattern. The words “you” and “I” make up 10 percent of the album’s lyrics as Beggins, Wilson and the rest of the seven-piece band seek to delve into the obscurities of love.
Rather than attempting to organize the album’s wide range of engagements with the trials of romance as a linear story, it is best interpreted as a series of independent cross-sections of points in various relationships, emotionally examining those aspects which contribute to their health, or lack thereof. These include self-consciousness and doubt (“Alex” and “Think It Over”), self-worth (“Eggshells”), sexual intimacy (“Follow Me”), struggling with and finally accepting failure (“Sinking Ship” and “The One”) and moving on (“Leave It Alone” and “Goodbye and Goodnight”).
The album’s titular track showcases a passionately misguided character expecting to change her partner into who she wants him to be. With a voice yet unheard by fans, the song climaxes as a fiery, passionate side of Wilson as she exclaims, “You can’t possibly give what I want from you.”
As the character expresses her frustration that her vision for the relationship can never be fulfilled, the listener wonders whether her temper is focused as resentment towards her partner or dissatisfaction with her own unchangeable expectations.
The album uses heavier instrumentation to punctuate these themes. With “Break You Down,” the band engages with idea of losing trust in a partner. Songs like “Back and Forth” and “The One” describe the pain of realizing too late the need to end an unhealthy relationship. The raw, honest emotion of the lyrics, coupled with catchy hooks, make for a detailed, powerful collection of stories which demand attention.
If another band had produced an album of this quality, a dedicated fan might worry about the follow-up being equally as powerful. But Wild Child’s canon of evolving lyrical achievement ages like wine. With “Expectations,” what might have been a crescendo of musical innovation feels like a single, brilliant movement within a larger work, one that I hope will continue for years to come.
Written by Sam Aly