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The Raised By Wolves - “Sadie Hawkins” (2013) review


The Raised By WolvesSadie Hawkins (2013)

This DC-based group has been described in the past as reminiscent of The Flaming Lips with a bit of The Police mixed in. But when I turn on The Raised By Wolves’s debut album, I pick up on a greater eclecticism. Any 90s pop rock comparison only begins to dive into the experimentation that gives this release life.

By the first track you’re swimming through the same captivating guitar licks of The Strokes mixed with the shoegaze-y haze of Slowdive—minus the melancholy. The way their jagged guitars bounce amid a wash of compressed vocals hits a sweet spot. Percussion weaves its way to the forefront, driving the song just as much as the soft spoken harmonies. You’re given a bygone angst amidst a seductive assortment of amplified vulnerability. “And when your life flashes before your eyes / I will wait in the peripheries.”

And then a drum kit? The buckling waves of a synth? In ‘Stung (Song For Him)’ the mood shifts to a day spent on the beach; overcast and few too many beers with some good friends. Too cold? Of course not. You brought that cozy sweater from home. With every pulse, the wind hits you a bit harder and you’re massaged into a gentle euphoria.

Move on to ‘Freddy Freaker’ and you reach one of the album’s true gems. Showcased in their one and only music video, The Raised By Wolves begin to dabble in more of a surf punk feel. The pop rock angst remains, but not without a welcomed bit of disarray and static.

The emotional cohesion of this release continues on and on, and should not go without praise. Scan over the group’s lyrics unaccompanied and you’ll see a surprising originality to their words. But you can’t undervalue a singer’s delivery. Dusty Durston, the main vocalist, gives an impeccable performance.

While the variance in instrumentation and dynamics suggest some genre-bending, ‘Hand-Me-Down Cardigans’ brings the listener up close and personal. You coast atop feathery fingerpicking, muted tambourine, grungy power chords, and a brief keyboard-driven interlude. “There lives a stranger inside of me that you will never know / because a heavy hard heart is worth its weight in gold.”

But back down the rabbit hole into the group’s synthpop meets singer/songwriter blend with my personal favorite, ‘Shangri-La-Di-Da.’ A wawaing guitar rings out alongside a xylophone. Again, the vocals segue from softhearted ruminations to giddy choruses. For a moment, reverberating conversations pile up on one another. The faint pounding of acoustic guitar strings skate behind hopeful crooning. Your ears are jerked up and down, over gravel pits, high above forests, through a cornfield of sweet resonance—and you love every second of it.

So when I put on my copy of Sadie Hawkins, it’s true. I get a whiff of The Flaming Lips, of The Police. But I also smell some 10cc, some Meat Puppets, some Talking Heads, and some Scattered Trees. It’s the sound that keeps on giving.

Unfortunately, and to dismay of many, The Raised By Wolves has since disbanded, only putting out one other short record. After a couple of tours along the east coast they decided to call it a day. At least the group left the world better than they found it.

 - Gabe Kahan
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