The wonderful debut album by New Hampshire’s Wild Light begins with the profanity-laden “California On My Mind,” with its hilariously unexpected chorus: “Fuck San Francisco! Fuck California!” sung in beautiful indie pop style over music that’s clearly influenced by Summer of Love psychedelia. The next song, “New Hampshire,” begins with the repeated chant: “There is a fork in the road where a car crashed.” But, again, the music is happy pop with uptempo drumming, synth-driven hooks, and great harmonies. So basically, two songs in and I’m like, who the fuck are these guys?
Apparently, it’s four dudes who’ve been hanging out together since they were kids and who played with the world’s greatest indie band, The Arcade Fire, as well as The Gutter Twins, MGMT, Clinic, Ambulance LTD, and LCD Soundsystem. In fact, I’ve read that a founding member of Wild Light was also a founding member of Arcade Fire. But where that band gets gloomy and heavy, Wild Light seem irrepresible. Their lyrical content is often dark, but the music remains stubbornly optimistic. Even when they slow down on “Surf Generation,” the band bounces along in a style that would make The Beach Boys proud.
The debut album can get a little repetitive by the end, but only in the same way an AC Newman album never changes: The band makes pop and doesn’t seem to be able to help itself from sounding hopeful, even when singing about death and broken hearts. This is a superior example of how much joy indie rock can bring without being superficial. There’s not a weak song here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being the best debut of 2009.