The Soundcarriers released their debut album Harmonium in 2009, coincidentally the same year that long-running UK indie pop legends Stereolab—whose second single bore the same title—called an extended hiatus. Though neither a specific homage to that band nor a carbon copy of their sound, The Soundcarriers represented a new generation of like-minded musical omnivores with a penchant for crate-digging eclecticism, building something new of mid-century cool reference points such as French pop, British prog and Brazilian psych (as worn stylishly on the sleeve of their 2014 album Entropicalia). As much a feeling of bingeing on ear candy as a transparent communication of their own voracity as listeners, The Soundcarriers’ music was refreshing for a reason that seems speciously rare: It sounded like it was made by people who loved hearing music as much as making it.
The Nottingham group had a prolific first few years, releasing three increasingly stronger studio albums, reaching what was then their career best with 2014’s Entropicalia before going relatively quiet for the next seven years. The members of the band spread to different parts of the country and prioritized time with family over more time on the road or the studio, but a call to create some music for the AMC show Lodge 49 was the catalyst for getting them back in the studio. Three years later, they emerged from sessions that began in a rural cottage with their aptly titled fourth album Wilds, a record born of pastoral settings but surging with vibrant, psychedelic electricity.
Wilds is at once a gorgeously immersive extension of The Soundcarriers’ previous three albums as well as a case study in how the group is able to build dazzlingly colorful landscapes from elements that might not initially seem like natural counterparts. Opening track “Waves” swings with the modular cool of ’60s French yé-yé pop, intersected with delay-heavy prog-rock flute solos. And it’s interesting to imagine a song like “All These Things” stripped of its rhythmic pulse—the pairing of acoustic guitars with Leonore Wheatley and Dorian Conway’s harmonized vocals is something more akin to the baroque British folk-rock of Pentangle. It’s in these unlikely pairings where The Soundcarriers find serendipitous inspiration, their ear for arrangements just as strong as their penchant for immersive and immediate songwriting.
What’s most striking about Wilds is how much heavier it feels at times than the group’s previous albums. Paul Isherwood’s bass and Adam Cann’s drums are the driving force behind a lot of the album’s best tracks, such as the jazz-punk of “Falling Back,” the opium-den Hot Buttered Soul shimmer of “Traces” or the John Barry motorik groove of “At the Time.” The sense of urgency is an exciting surprise, one that’s never seemed outside of the band’s aesthetic or capabilities, but which is put into practice in ways their past output could’ve only hinted at.
What hasn’t changed is The Soundcarriers’ omnivorous appetite for all manner of sounds and styles, their fourth album a diverse and fluid a combination of their myriad influences and impulses. Not surprisingly, everything sounds incredible—The Soundcarriers’ best platform is a good pair of speakers or headphones, where every detail can be given its proper space and sense of animation. But it’s more than just strong production or interesting arrangements that make Wilds such a strong entry in their catalog. There’s a sense of joy that beams through each of these nine tracks, not unlike that infectious, giddy feeling of hearing a record you just can’t wait to share with your friends.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.