Only in this day and age. Neil and Sumul Shah form the musical duo, Wildlife Control. At first blush, you expect the two brothers to be rounding up giraffes and zebras, and caging them for their own protection. Maybe throwing nets over polar bears, and playing PETA-inspired love ballads to saving the Arctic and promoting driving small sedan/hybrids over bloated SUV’s and comically obnoxious Hummers.
Wildlife Control isn’t that type of band. As far as I can tell, the name is just a name. The group focuses more on dance-rock melodies, than saving the world. And when tracks like the bouncy electro-pop of “Disguise” and the moody jangly guitar of “Lose” burst through your speakers, the last thing on your mind is the inevitable and unfortunate destruction of the polar bears. The only thing on your mind is the unjust nature of their lack of present popularity, mixed with that heartwarming and charming feeling of confidence that they will really shine in the near future.
Wildlife Control is on the crux of something very immense. In many ways, they represent something greater than the sum of the 33 minutes of their debut LP which is set to be released July 31st. They represent the viral nature of social media. They represent the ability to craft hype and attention, mixed with a potential long-term career, entirely on their own merit. Their debut single “Analog or Digital” isn’t just a fancy ode to the changing trends of recording preferences, but a dance-pop gem that obtained viral success when an accompanying music video was recorded and self-released on YouTube in 2012.
Analog or digital? Self-released or major label? These questions don’t matter, because Wildlife Control achieved notoriety based on their marketing and their own choices, damn it. Because of their independent background and artistic choices, the question of ‘When can we hear new music?’ is being asked far more often than ‘Which brother is hotter?’
The self-titled album is still shy from release, but is rife with some of the best hooks and melodies of the indie world.
‘Darkness’ sounds like a channeling of Paul McCartney circa- Blackbird. That alone is a testament, yet the group manages to turn the song into this underwater sensational soundscape, driven by whimsical vocal effects, and laden with a closing piano segment that sounds as touching as it does sincere.
The song does so much in 3 minutes and 54 seconds, more than one could ever come to expect from a band so early in their career.
Then ‘Disguise’ comes on, and the lounge jazz sound mixed with rudimentary drumwork makes for such an enticing and original sound. Almost remarkably so.
The songs never spin their wheels. And it never comes across as a group throwing a bunch of things at a musical pinboard and crossing their fingers for coherence. All the sounds seem necessary, all sound intentional. Each one stands on its own two feet. Even ‘Oakland’ is sensational. What would otherwise be a obligatory vocal-less break from the pace, becomes a requited element to the album’s wholeness. It’s elegant and exquisite and leads into an equally impressive second half. You won’t hear a hook better than “Spin” anytime soon.
The songs often bleed into each other, adding that flair of full-length that is grossly lacking in the modern musical climate. So not only is Wildlife Control releasing a tried and true “album,” but their doing so by trying new things, mixing up their styles, and retaining a key focus on quality songwriting and class. Go figure.
A common fault to be found in independent recordings is the production. A band may be competent musicians, but sitting at the soundboard production seat, they sort of just wiggle some dials and nod their heads. The production here, done by the pair themselves, is top-tier, elegantly blending orchestrated segments without devaluing or overwhelming the vocals (as seen in ‘Melody’) or harnessing a perfectly mixed wordly style (as heard on ‘Lose’).
The band’s debut self-titled album is absolutely brilliant, and I don’t say this because of some pre-conceived and falsified expectation that writing a press release/online post requires praise. Each track speaks for itself. The cohesion is intact, the band has something to say lyrically, and the hooks are addictive and resilient.
When a band is working out their sound and marketing, and trying to find grounding in a world where musical attention spans barely last a new 4 minute Lady Gaga single, it is dangerous to overhype. Overhype can kill an artists integrity and their momentum in the long-term. How many bands were steamrolled by the hype-engine, only to fail to meet lofty expectations and sort of dwindle in obscurity and return to the grim reality of “not being Bono?’
With that said, I really want to just say that Wildlife Control is an okay band. And by saying that, I really mean there amazing, and worth every minute of your time, but I should probably omit that last sentence for fear of being the point.
Wildlife Control is cooler, wittier, and impeccably refined for their self-titled debut.
And check out their first single, Analog or Digital:
About Ryan Merkel
Ryan Merkel is a writer on music, pop culture, entertainment, business, and all those other fun things which make life tick. He is an entrepreneur, designer, and overall pop culture enthusiast. Ryan owns the clothing line LoveMended with his wife, which focuses on fashion and charity, as well as the music blog CultureTease. Ryan is the author of two novels, and currently lives in Florida.