Review of Wild Moccasins new CD

Wild Moccasins “Skin Collision Past”
On their previous EP, Microscopic Metronomes, Wild Moccasins sounded like a piercing rush of the new when set against the repetitive hip-hop that controls Houston’s music scene and the rote blues guitar-driven rock that is around every corner in Austin. The group of starry-eyed, happy youngsters writes songs that mix confectionary melodies with lissome wordplay and a cuddly, quirky worldview.
The Moccasins first full-length album, Skin Collision Past, continues the strong work of the EP. Like Metronomes, Skin Collision is a complete listen – i.e., an album that feels like it should be listened to all the way through. While the individual nine tracks are all good on their own, their real power is revealed when they’re placed in proper order.
“Skin Collision Past” opens the LP. It is probably Wild Moccasins’ most infectious melody yet. Singers Sahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann pile their voices on each other for the cat-calling chorus and Swann’s perpetually-spiky rhythm guitar work provides the fuzzy bed for the compact rhythm section of John Baldwin (drums) and Nicholas Cody (bass). They hit their changes with the confidence of the Famous Flames. This should be the lead single if the group intends on releasing one.
The second song, “Cake,” immediately makes clear that the Moccasins have more than one worthwhile track. Whereas “Skin Collision” built upon itself, the structure of “Cake” continually reverses and re-ups until the descending, phrase-concluding vocal motif. Like the titular pastry, it is a complex, but pleasurable, mixture.
As always, the defining trait of the group’s sound is the interplay between Gutierrez and Swann’s singing voices. Gutierrez is blessed with a fluttering, crystalline voice that swan dives around Swann’s reedy, consoling foundation. Swann also writes all of the band’s lyrics; he knows how to delineate responsibility – “Cake,” basically a Sahira solo shot, wouldn’t work as well if Swann handled lead vocals.
The songs come in more flavors than “candy-coated, harmonious rock-pop,” as well. “Late Night Television” begins with a feedback-and-distortion loop that would make Wilco proud. Andrew Lee, the band’s lead guitarist, slides alongside the chorus with figures that sound a lot like The Edge. Lee’s lead work is subtle and entrenched in the group sound; there are no major guitar solos to speak of. Swann’s rhythm work is easily the most immediately noticeable guitar sound, but the throbbing, pinpoint fills Lee provide fill in the open space nicely.
The Moccasins set up a familiar arrangement pattern based around dynamics and the addition and subtraction of instruments. “Its Health & My Own” is a particularly yearning track that memorably ends with Gutierrez belting out a note well past the last recession of the backing instruments; it’s an arresting human moment.
The two-hit of “Psychic China” and “Born Blonde” in the middle of the record is the strongest stretch of music Wild Moccasins have to offer. “China”’s chorus stomps with such determination it dares you not to tap your foot. “Born Blonde” eschews much of Swann’s surreal wordplay for a touching, personal look at how people change their appearance based off a need for social acceptance.
“Calendar” is similarly concrete in its imagery. Beginning as a contemplative ballad before launching into similar sonic territory, the song’s refrain goes, “I forget all the days/that I should remember.” Wild Moccasins are all young people, but here they drop some life wisdom; perhaps they all already shocked at how fast time passes.
“Chapter Four” is an acoustic-led ballad that, coming near the end of the album, surprises the listener by the late-in-the-game change in approach. However, the wistful tune hits all its marks and instead of an awkward shift in tone it becomes the soft underbelly of the tougher songs that came before it.
The delightful “Zylophone” is the final track. “You and I disagree/if xylophone starts with z,” goes the first line. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but Zahira’s voice turns the joke into something real. It’s a song about the inevitable misunderstandings that accompany any relationship. The bass line pumps the chorus up and Gutierrez harmonizes with herself like a swooning lover. The song (and record as a whole) is over before you expect it to be.
So the first Wild Moccasins record is an undiluted joy to listen to. They will undoubtedly grow and become even more ambitious with their music from here on out, but their debut provides a crisp and satisfying intro to the group. Meanwhile, Wild Moccasins are currently on tour for the record.
Originally posted on Austin + Music Magazine.com

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