Review : Craig Wedren - WAND
PitchforkShudder to Think's Pony Express Record remains one of the strangest artifacts of the post-Nirvana major-label gold rush, a nugget of operatic, sinister, and gleefully self-aware art punk released at the peak of male angst-driven grungemania. Even the band's unexpected 2008 reunion was both of and against its time, a beacon of clear-eyed virtuosity and precision amidst an encroaching tide of gauzy 1990s nostalgia. The reunited Shudder to Think toured sporadically for a couple of years, released a live album (2009's Live From Home), and once again disbanded.
WAND is Shudder to Think singer Craig Wedren's first album since he got the band back together, and it is exactly the album you'd hope somebody would make after reengaging with complex, dynamic music. While 2005's Lapland was stately and muted in its execution, WAND is falling all over itself with ideas. Wedren's voice commands rising and receding string sections, intricate multi-part harmonies, and subtle electronic textures that bloom into full-on rock arrangements. The album's title is apt; though Wedren is joined by a formidable cast of supporting players, much of the record feels conjured out of thin air.
Wedren possesses one of those rare rock voices that is both distinctive and versatile, and he covers a good deal of expressive ground on WAND. On Lapland, Wedren was able to coax a surprising amount of understated sweetness from his voice. Here, Wedren combines that sweetness with the eerie trills of Shudder to Think and the glammy vamp of his pre-Lapland quasi-dance project, Baby. The resulting cognitive dissonance is one of WAND's greatest assets; the opening verse of "Make Me Hurt You" might be the most irresistibly catchy and unabashedly Classic Pop thing Wedren has ever recorded, but the song's titular chorus proves, uh, awkward to sing along with....full text
MxdwnCraig Wedren isn’t just a band singer with a solo career. Yes, the Shudder to Think frontman released his first solo album, on Conor Oberst’s label in 2005. And yes, Shudder to Think weren’t your typical band anyway: they moved from major label albums to film soundtracks (including the glam-rock spectacle Velvet Goldmine) before they broke up. Wedren has still managed to transcend the “lead-singer-turned-soloist” category, however, carving out his own unique place in the entertainment industry. He led the indie-rock group Baby, composed scores for everything from School of Rock to Hung, organized a music event for Barack Obama, and can now call himself a digital pioneer. His second solo album, WAND, has an interactive 360-degree film accompaniment. Besides being groundbreaking technology, the surreal project (directed by Tim Nackashi) is a perfect complement to his second solo effort.
Wedren’s composing work has found its way into WAND’s sixteen tracks. While the film was structured around the songs instead of the other way around, there is a definite cinematic quality to the album. Like a film score, WAND doesn’t feel constrained by pop structures. Though the album isn’t without its hooks, it often seems content to meander or venture into new aesthetic territory. “Bloodwarmer” feels inconclusive, fading into following track “Lady Ghost” like they’re parts of a rock opera.
“Uh Oh Oh No” is reminiscent of the xx, while other tracks (“Rectory Girl”, “I Know”) lean toward punk and its derivatives. Still others employ lush, layered instrumentals and Wedren’s ethereal falsetto (“Are We”, “Heaven Sent”). WAND feels cohesive in its lack of cohesion; Wedren has created a palette of sounds that he mixes at will, with remarkably diverse results.
WAND is as multifaceted and experimental as Craig Wedren’s own career – full of different stylistic strains. It makes sense that this work would have a groundbreaking film component. Like WAND and its dynamic creator, Nackashi’s piece also transcends boundaries....full text
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- 1. Are We
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