Searching the 'Wild Places' of Avalanche City [Album Review]

by - Tuesday, July 07, 2015

currently: listening to 'Fault Lines' by Avalanche City.


I always imagined a real 'Avalanche City' as a cross between Disneyland and the Smurf village. Not so much a city, but more a cute and whimsical township. Bunnies would march in ukulele bands, penguins would sail little boats, and its citizens would live in adorable treehouses decorated with fairy lights and bunting.

That's the life Avalanche City's first record painted for me. 'Our New Life Above the Ground' was a debut album that brought tunes of joy, imagination, and love in a dream-like journey. But with Avalanche City's newest release, that blissful trance has been awakened to face on something more real, confronting and "wild".

'We Are for the Wild Places', Dave Baxter's second album as the one-man band, takes a step away from the first album's distinct "folk" style. Exploring with a bigger arsenal of instruments and noise makers has helped build a more complex and layered sound that rests darker and melancholic.

Love (love, love) is still one of the biggest themes for Avalanche City but it's not as bubbly and peppy as it was painted before. The romance of relationships are written as tales of uncertainty and struggle. From the determined 'Keep Finding a Way,' to the real talk down of 'Fault Lines' where you 'just got to keep your head out of the clouds' to get through trial and strife.

Of course there is still a bubbly track or two, the most obvious heard in 'Little Fire' which brings its own warm fuzzies and the return of the perky xylophone. But the upbeat song is a small throwback to the first album's style, which acts as an encouraging little lifter between the more slower and thoughtful tracks towards the end.

The iconic track of this album is by far the single 'Inside Out'. I've loved it from first listen live at one of the X Factor NZ shows, because it's so captivating. It plucks the same three chords but is sculpted in such a way that those three chords become so effective. The ocean of sound and echo build to take you under, and the raw lyrics make you fight for breath. The emotional conflict paints a true heartbreak song crafted so beautifully.

If there could be any flaws with this album it could be the slight sense of repetitiveness between a couple of tracks with chord similarities. But those moments are far and few in-between compared with the first album.

This album is highly addictive to keep replaying, and truly does lead Dave Baxter into a new territory of music. And while I thought the musical landscape was only about the cute and whimsical, 'We Are for the Wild Places' has proven there are uncharted "wild places" within the little township that is Avalanche City. And it will surely only expand more from there.

"I was always for the failures, and we are for the wild places." - Wild Places II

Stand out tracks: Inside Out, I Need You, Fault Lines, Wild Places II
For people who like: Owl City, Jack's Mannequin, Ed Sheeran

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