Globe Hall Presents Wild Pink with Trace Mountains and Knuckle Pups on Thursday, December 1st.
The fourth full-length from Wild Pink, ILYSM unfolds with all the fractured beauty of a dreamscape. Over the course of 12 chameleonic tracks, the New York-bred rock band build another world inhabited by ghosts and angels and aliens, inciting a strange and lovely daze as the backdrop shifts from the mundane (subdivisions, highways, hotel parking lots) to the extraordinary (deserts, battlefields, the moon). But within its vast imagination lies a potent truth-telling on the part of singer/guitarist John Ross, whose lyrics closely examine his recent struggle with cancer. The follow-up to 2021’s A Billion Little Lights—a critically acclaimed effort praised by the likes of Pitchfork, NPR, Vulture, and Stereogum, who named it “one of the
prettiest rock records of the past decade”—ILYSM emerges as a truly revelatory body of work, transforming the most painful reflection into moments of transcendence.
As Ross reveals, ILYSM’s feverish yet fragile intensity has much to do with the unmooring experience of being diagnosed with cancer early in the writing process. Now in the surveillance phase of recovery, Ross explains, “Even though I’d already started working on the record, everything took on new meaning after my diagnosis. I started writing songs that tried to make sense of the whole experience, including the love
and support I felt from the people in my life—particularly my wife, which is where the title came from.”
An album informed by the odd poetry of everyday life, ILYSM opens on “Cahooting The Multiverse”—a gorgeously hazy track encapsulated by Ross as “a stream-of-consciousness tune inspired by watching the light come in through the sugar maples where I live, or taking a walk by the school and seeing this little mountain of cigarettes where the teachers sneak out to smoke behind the cedar trees.” From there, Wild Pink drift into the quiet grandeur of “Hold My Hand” feat. Julien Baker, one of ILYSM’s most profoundly vulnerable moments. “I wrote that song right after my first surgery, about lying on the operating table where a member of the surgical team held my hand right before I went under,” says Ross. “It sounds
kind of arbitrary, and like it shouldn’t have been as impactful as it was, but I felt very comforted and wanted to capture that loving feeling in the song.” Featuring the elegant piano work of David Moore (leader of the ambient ensemble Bing & Ruth), the result is a hypnotic piece of chamber-pop, brightened by Baker’s warm and wistful vocals.
For Ross, the process of bringing ILYSM to life provided a certain sense of escape, even at its most daunting moments. (“I was actually back in another cancer surgery within a week of wrapping up the recording,” he recalls. “It was pretty surreal to record this album knowing I had cancer in my lymph nodes—but since I couldn’t have the surgery any sooner, I just stuck with my studio time.”) And with the release of ILYSM, Wild Pink hope the album might supply others with their own outlet for solace and catharsis. “Writing about all this has helped me process my experience, or even just acknowledge that I still don’t completely understand how I feel about it,” says Ross. “It’s been a very confusing, overwhelming time, and hopefully it’ll offer some kind of comfort to anyone else who’s feeling overwhelmed or confused too.”
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