As I discussed last year with the new Fergie album, the emotional upheaval caused by the dissolution of a romance makes for excellent source material for creating art. And in the interest of being petty, if you want to hear actually great music borne from breaking up, I would direct your attention to the iconic Rumors by Fleetwood Mac – a project created by band members who were actively entangled romantically.
In fact, one of our greatest philosophers once asked a question foundational to all music lovers – “What came first: the music or the misery?”
Suffice to say, music history has been saturated by all manner of brokenhearted tunes for time immemorial, no matter the genre. So, when I heard that the new release from Houston-based indie outfit Wild Moccasins was rooted in the dissolution of the nearly decade-long relationship between its two principals, I had mixed feelings, as this was familiar thematic ground. My thoughts ran quickly toward sentiments like, “Well, that’s sad, because they were such a great couple with excellent artistic chemistry, but I hope the music doesn’t suffer because Cody and Zahira broke up.”
Well, let me tell you, dear reader – I would selfishly like more musical couples to break up if the result is stunning music in the vein of Look Together.
Released on New West Records, this 12-song album bursts with passionate pop that is unflinching in its subject matter and attention to detail in its production values. Featuring lovelorn lyrics torn straight from real life and bereft of cheap sentimentality, the quartet has created a glorious twist on indie-pop that’s equal parts Blondie, Duran Duran, The Smiths, and Carly Rae Jepsen.
The crux of the album abounds in ‘80s flare and motifs, from the glittering New Wave synth bops to glistening guitar licks that would sound welcome on both a Talking Heads or Huey Lewis & The News track. But the engaged ear should easily detect subtle traces of disco and glam, as in the sort of homages to ABBA and Chic that have defined the roster of acts signed to DFA Records. The result is fresh, clear-eyed pop music that you could hear on both Sirius XMU or your better-than-average terrestrial pop radio station.
Let’s be clear – I’ve been listening to Wild Moccasins since its debut EP in 2009, so while my opinion might be biased, I’m comfortable saying that the band has never sounded better.
Along with the aforementioned guitar and keys, the drumming and associated percussion programming are sharp and resonant, but never over-bearing. And when coupled with a lovely bass presence that’s just warm enough without being hefty, you’re left entranced by the sumptuous depths of the arrangements.
The ultimate strength of Look Together rests in the more than capable voice of Zahira Gutierrez. Older releases from Wild Moccasins featured equal amounts of vocals from Gutierrez and Cody Swann (her now ex-paramour), including lovely harmonies from both, but there’s none of that here – and the music is the better for it. Her breathy mezzo-soprano shimmers, glows, and reaches falsetto heights with aplomb, telling her painful truths with a power that calls to mind Florence Welch, Debbie Harry, and fellow Houstonian Michelle Miears. Yet, instead of wallowing in her misery, she deals with her emotions and relationships directly, which gives her the strength to move on, grow up, and find new freedoms.
Led by the opening triptych of “Boyish Wave,” “Temporary Vase,” and “Longtime Listener,” and followed by additional standouts like “Seven to One,” “Waterless Cup,” and the title track, Look Together quickly vaulted to the top tier of my favorite records of 2018.
Again, I might be a biased hometown homer here, but I’m OK with that, to be quite honest with you.
Not only I want to champion the music that comes from my hometown, but I want to share it with the world. Wild Moccasins should be so much more popular and well-known than they are, so it’s my hope that this album sends them soaring into the musical stratosphere.
So, while my heart is still sad that Cody and Zahira aren’t a couple any more, my ears are very happy that they decided to remain together as artistic counterparts, because the world needs to hear this album.
Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”