Over the next two weeks we’ll be counting down our 10 favorite records released in the Pacific Northwest in 2011. Follow along! –
#8. Wild Flag – Wild Flag (Merge)
Composed of two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney and members of Helium, Quasi, and The Minders, Wild Flag has certainly got, as they say, chops. It’s not surprising that the Portland band’s debut was greeted with a media frenzy and waves of audience adulation. It is possibly surprising that these veterans of the coarse, political nineties have produced in their eponymous full-length a strong candidate for the feel-good album of the year.
I mean, mostly, the way it physically makes you feel. From the opening rhythms of “Romance” – which begins, appropriately, “Hey, can you feel it?” – the energy is undeniable and inescapable. Janet Weiss’ muscular drums are the music’s bobbing head; Carrie Brownstein’s vocals a fist pump, a pelvic thrust; Mary Timony’s sinuous voice its swaying hips. As the beat pushes you solidly into your body, psychedelic guitar warps coax you out of your mind. Dancing is not an option; it becomes a physical need.
Meanwhile, hedonistic, carpe-diem lyrics are constantly writing the checks that your ass is busy cashing. “Don’t try to fight it, ’cause you won’t / Let go, it’s not wrong,” instructs the trippy garage-rock closer “Black Tiles.” “For all we know we’re just here / For the length of the song.” “Short Version” advises, “If you want to thrill us / Stop staring with your little frown / When the feeling comes / You gotta throw your weary body down.”
The drums roll on, sometimes faster than arms should be able to move. The hypnotic psych-riffs loop. Even in its quietest times, Wild Flag is an upbeat romp; in the biggest moments it winds up into a full-on bacchanal. Wild Flag traverses the borderlands of dance music and rock ‘n’ roll, gathering the essence of both: the gut connection, the ruthless punch to the lower chakras. The glorious abandonment of your psychological constraints and the surrender to your physical urges. Throw off the sandbags and fucking MOVE.