Superchunk – Wild Loneliness (2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 38:34 minutes | 830 MB | Genre: Indie Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Merge Records
Mac McCaughan sounds really, really tired of being angry and frustrated all the time. It’s arguably the most relatable sentiment on Wild Loneliness, Superchunk’s newest—and most contemplative—album yet. Who among us, after four years of the Trump administration and two years (and counting) of the greatest public health crisis in a century, isn’t exhausted? If there’s a common thread to so many of the memes, blog posts, and expressions of mental health issues that so many people turn to daily in an effort to find some common ground and inspiration, it’s that daily life has been a grueling ordeal for awhile now.
In that vein, the songs on the band’s 12th album (not including essential compilation releases Tossing Seeds and Incidental Music) speak to the listener in a manner that’s direct even for a heart-on-sleeve romantic like McCaughan. After 2018’s What A Time To Be Alive emitted such a cry of anger, perhaps the change of pace—slower tempos, sunnier melodies, reflective themes—is inevitable. Being pissed-off can feel good (and cathartic, when paired with such barn-burning songs), but it’s harder to embrace those emotions in the long run. At the end of the day, when you’ve expended your allotment of anger, what’s left? That’s where Wild Loneliness comes in.
The most consequential music lesson to come from the pandemic is that bands, engineers and even producers no longer have to be in the same room to make a record. Any questions about the ease of digital technology have been answered by the swarm of good-to-better sounding tracks created remotely since 2020. After 30 years of making buzzy, muscular indie rock Superchunk—Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur, and Jon Wurster—are showing few signs of age. Oh sure, McCaughan blissfully rhymes “bummer” too many times in the climate change plea, “Endless Summer,” and his voice—always a strength—is also a touch reedier than in the past when he goes higher in tunes like “On the Floor” but the song craftsmanship is still there. Produced by McCaughan and mixed together by Wally Gagel, the sound is a touch more one dimensional than is usual, lacking depth and resonance in some tracks like “Highly Suspect” more than others. One big attraction here is the guest list which includes Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley singing harmony on “Endless Summer” and Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell adding vocals to “This Night.” All the guests recorded themselves, with the exception of R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, who chips in vocals recorded by the multi-talented David Barbe for “On the Floor.” Musically, there are some chamber pop touches that work though they may be too pretty and serious for fans of the band’s more rock-edged sides; strings appear courtesy of Owen Pallett on the opener “City of the Dead” and “This Night.” Horns eventually emerge in “Highly Suspect” while the title track features a linchpin saxophone solo by Wye Oak’s Andy Stack. For fans of the Superchunk that cranks up the guitars and races the tempos, there’s “Refracting” where McCaughan gleefully admits “I try not to judge/ But it’s so fun/ And so distracting/ I should direct my energy/ Somewhere good/ But it keeps refracting.” At some point in the lives of bands that have lasted this long, the focus becomes more about just continuing to make music than writing hit singles or looking for larger fame. Superchunk are that enduring affinity. – Robert Baird
01. Superchunk – City of the Dead (04:24)
02. Superchunk – Endless Summer (04:14)
03. Superchunk – On the Floor (03:38)
04. Superchunk – Highly Suspect (04:38)
05. Superchunk – Set It Aside (02:20)
06. Superchunk – This Night (04:35)
07. Superchunk – Wild Loneliness (03:03)
08. Superchunk – Refracting (02:51)
09. Superchunk – Connection (04:39)
10. Superchunk – If You’re Not Dark (04:08)