Beth and Emilie Key and their cousin Meghann Loney have at least matched the strengths of their last work, if not transcended it. This is beauty with guts and purpose.

Label: Sony / Silvertone
Time: 10 tracks / 39 minutes

When their first album came out, Wildwood Kin’s harmonies were striking and they were often compared with various more established acts like Haim or Simon and Garfunkel. They still resemble the magic sound of Fleet Foxes in places here (such as the reverbed section near the end of “Never Alone”), but especially with the consistent gigging that they have done over the last couple of years, this sound is now clearly their own.  It is instantly recognisable and surprisingly unique.

What makes this album more special is that there is real substance beneath their velvet style. Each track has strong tunes and / or a hook that makes it individual.

These former worship leaders have a highly supportive message, speckled with phrases that seem caught from their church experience. Openers “Headed for the Water” and “Time has Come” are both compelling tracks which carry you away with their energy, the former setting their vocals against a prominent bass line, and both lifted by wordless vocals.

Substance doesn’t get much more solid than when dealing with personal grief and the band’s emphasis on songs of encouragement and hope is particularly impressive, given that drummer/singer Megann Loney lost her brother to suicide and the powerful song “Never Alone” is a plea to find the source of hope before it is too late:
     “When your heart is grieving
      Airless hearts are breathing
      Let me show you a way to a place where you know you're never alone.”

The gentler “Beauty in your Brokenness” is inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, where damaged pottery is restored by lacquer, dusted with gold and silver powder, to create something of even more value, but this ode to redemption also echoes Isaiah’s “beauty for ashes.”

The album oozes such sentiment:  “Wake up Sleeper” mentions a heart “turning from stone, horizons awaken;” while “All on Me” could be a song directly from God as it urges the listener to “See yourself the way I do... when the world takes hold, I won’t let go.”

This new release shows a step forward in their songcraft. It may have come from working with artists like Gabrielle Aplin (“Wake up Sleeper”) and Ed Harcourt (“Never Alone”), but the repetition of phrases in their first collection has disappeared. There is virtually no filler of any sort here.

As their début album faded out in ambient style, it left psalm-like lyrics about waters refreshing a dry land. This time, it closes with “Signals,” a track that alerts the listener to something “beyond a rational reason” that can “realign my perspective,” urging a response and the warning, “If I look away from it, I will lose my way.”

As with their début album, their arrangements feel more organic than factory-structured, and this collection is a wonderful sound world with substantial depth to its content.  

Derek Walker