I’m having a bit of a hard time choosing where to begin illustrating Tilly and the Wall’s debut album, Wild Like Children. I mean, it’s the first release birthed from childhood friend and fellow doe-eyed Nebraskan Conor Oberst’s aptly-named Team Love – that’s the obvious angle. But perhaps even more impressive is that the five-man (and woman) collective declared drums passé, opted instead for a hard-working tap dancer named Jamie and then used her to create a soundtrack to prepubescent pain that borrows liberally from Madonna’s “Into the Groove.”
And that’s just the beginning. Wild Like Children combines the talents of three pretty girls and two prettier boys worth obsessing over with the innocence, bullshit and folly of youth in perfect harmony. The result is uncharacteristically intelligent and undeniably adorable pop that is somehow chirpy and warm without lapsing into unforgivably annoying. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering that it reads like a junior high diary and carries sugar-coated melodies like an emo Sharon, Lois and Bram or The Mamas and the Papas, if only Mama Cass had sung about heavy petting, broken curfews and teenage drunkenness while clopping around in shiny shoes.
The greatest proof of this is “Nights of the Living Dead,” a song that breaks down like a confession to my 10th grade counselor, Mrs. Wallace. “Oh the high school kids they’re all fucked up / Touching each other, oh my God / Yeah and forty ounces was never enough / We want to pass out in your yard,” the band sings in unison amidst a manic barrage of heels, bells and tambourines. It continues into a night of Atlanta prostitutes, wine and boredom before the moaning cello of “Let It Rain” mellows the pace into something near-Belle and Sebastian-y. Likewise, “I Always Knew” is gentle and delicate, a young girl’s good riddance poetry to the boy she thought she would love forever. Of course though, the best of these is the mournful, never-surrender ballad “You and I Misbehaving,” the least kittenish piece on the record. Layered with trumpets and pounding pianos, Tilly sticks it and begs you to listen for the “oddball singing” whenever The Man tries to set limits of black and white.
The final track, “The Ice Storm, Big Gust, and You” perfects Tilly’s campfire sing-along genius. “We will sing pretty songs about love, and we will fight if that’s what it takes, and we won’t back down … We will dance to no music at all. We will do what it takes to get through to you,” they sing.
I couldn’t ask these kids for more.
Rilo Kiley – The Execution of All Things
Death Cab for Cutie – The Photo Album
Belle and Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress