Cemeteries - The Wilderness
You know what they say about appearances: they can often be deceptive. Going into their first encounter with the debut album by Kyle J. Reigle, AKA Cemeteries, a glance at the moniker under which he's released the record, as well as its bleak title, would lead one to assume that it's a downbeat and gloomy affair; a sullen lurch through goth-pop tradition. If that were true, then it would be safe to say that goth-pop has scarcely sounded this lush or ethereal. Recorded over a period of six months in the spare room of his Buffalo apartment, the New Yorker's opening statement is anything but sparse, despite going under the name of The Wilderness. The collection has an almost autumnal feel to it, which means that its release has been timed very well indeed. It's rather evocative and atmospheric at times, too - so much so that you'll want to shut out the world for 45 minutes or so whilst you lose yourself within its rich textures.
It begins in typically understated fashion with 'Young Blood', a song that has more in common with folk-pop than anything else, Reigle's soft and soothing vocal style lulling the listener into a blissed-out state before the song suddenly explodes into life with a swell of symphonic sound. It is a suitably emphatic introduction to an album that relies not on what it says, but how it says it; the lyrics are quite often obscured by reverb, but its impeccable production means that not one idea is lost in the mix. The more up-tempo feel of the title track helps the album to find its feet in earnest, before expectations suddenly skyrocket with the arrival of one of the best dream-pop songs of the year: 'What Did You See' threads a lush tapestry of sound, its crystalline melodies proving that when Reigle's on top form, he's up there with the very best of his contemporaries. All the other songs on the album strive to match it, and even if none of the rest of them quite get there, it's the kind of exemplary song that he should be especially proud of.
The Wilderness is refreshingly free of filler - there is admittedly very little room for that, at 9 songs long - but the levels of quality remain rather high throughout, with the journey into psychedelia Reigle takes on the album's back half - 'Roosting Towns' and the spine-tingling album closer 'A Real Gust of Wind', in particular - providing some of the most rewarding material. A variety of moods and themes are explored through the album's layered compositions, and it's Reigle's penchant for variety and willingness to experiment that makes this album as vibrant as it is. It's definitely a grower, but there are a ton of hooks and winning melodies scattered throughout, more than enough to entice the listener back for some repeated listening.