ALBUM REVIEW: WOLF COLONY – UNMASKED

7/10

ALBUM REVIEW:  WOLF COLONY - UNMASKED

The description “Emotional electronica” sounds like a contradiction in terms. I come from the position that the two are not mutually exclusive. Anonymous singer songwriter Wolf Colony is a deft practitioner in the unlikely genre. The New York electro pop connoisseur has released his debut album Unmasked this month, it is a deeply reflective and introspective collection immersed in electro pop. Wolf Colony has decided to don a wolf mask and hide his personal information in order that his music takes center stage. Hence the irony of the debut album title Unmasked.

Wolf Colony wrote and performed the entirety of the Unmasked with Neal Sarin as producer and Jason Finkel mixing. Wolf Colony used a stream of consciousness approach to writing and creating the music for the album. Stating,”that he was surprised when listening back to the studio session with what this approach dug up in the lyrics.” Hesitating to identify influences, he states that he has,” always respected Fleetwood Mac, and more recent artists, Lana Del Rey, and Lady Gaga.” More important to Wolf Colony than influences is freedom and independence in his artistry.

The songs themselves have traditional song structures and winsome lyrics. The album starts out with The One which was written as a love letter. It is uplifting and positive, and listeners will enjoy get acquainted with Wolf Colony’s pleasing voice. There is an autumnal feel to the songs, and I get a sound that is definitely an early Depeche Mode vibe from this and other songs on the album. On The One, there is a fair mix of 80’s synth but combined with warm emotionality. Youth Is not overly adorn musically and matches the innocence of youth and the nostalgia for a happy childhood that are the center piece of the song. Beauty tells the story meeting a girl so beautify on the inside and out that the singer finds he needs to treat her different from all the rest. It is catchy melodic pop and a real grower with each listen.

Paradise is another song that recalls early Depeche Mode. There is a nice interplay between the percussion and keyboards. The song is about not appreciating something until it is gone, in this case the carefree life prior to Wolf Colony beginning his musical career. Calling conveys a yearning for someone to love. The music beautifully reflects that desire. Pleasure was inspired by the artist’s time in Paris, where he knew a hedonist seeking pleasure and enjoying the ride. The icy synth and studio effects make for a very seductive song.

Holy is a “do not miss” song on the album. It has a Frightened Rabbit feel. The lyrics address the concept of holiness and the fact that no one is,”Everybody sins in their own way.” It also makes the wry point that sometimes bad is just more fun, “The devil came to me and said I’d keep you better entertained.” This is my favorite song on the disc.

Dark and Moody is an effective study on the futility of trying to change people. It also conveying the feelings of betrayal when the person does not change. Take note to the great electronic intro to the song. The Otherside examines morality and sanity in a dramatic and heartfelt song. The vocal layering is effective in producing the emotion uncertainty the lyrics flesh out. Brown Eyes is an ode to love at first sight and how our minds shift into high gear from the initial attraction to building a relationship in mere seconds. The drony keyboards are an excellent accompaniment to the ideal of the song.

The solid beat on the song Run deliver an engaging undercurrent to a song that deals with self doubt. Wolf Colony describes the feeling of being lost and confused but ultimately finding your way if you stick to your guns. Fame is an amazing song, full of energy and fun and the most experimental. The church like organ intro will continue the vibe of a revival tent with the TV evangelist at the end preaching a doctrine that no revivalist preacher ever would. The song surprisingly has a nice dance vibe. The final song is In Your Eyes and is not the Peter Gabriel song, instead a heart rendering tune with an excellent guitar and about earning the esteem of a lover time and time again. The song was done in a single take and was a late addition to the disc as Wolf Colony fell in love with the song.

Wolf Colony has made a point of being anonymous. This anonymity used by any performer will create audience curiosity. It will be interesting to see how long Wolf Colony will be able to maintain that state. It is true that said anonymity keeps the listener centered on the music, but we also know how hard it is to keep a secret in our information age.

Unmasked is a strong debut for Wolf Colony. His mind and heart are in the right place. I especially enjoyed the lyrics taking front and center in the songs. He is certainly a worthy lyrist. The music on each track compliments and takes nothing away from the theme of each song. The album definitely is grower and the listener is able to glean something new with each pass. I look forward to the next album and the opportunity to see where Wolf Colony will progress in the future.

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