Unknown-48Review: Runaround/Wild Child (Released 10.8.13 by The Noise Company)

by Greg Allard

There’s something very special about Wild Child that is not so easy to pinpoint. Part of it certainly is the frontperson-duo of Alexander Beggins and Kelsey Wilson– both who claim they are musical soul mates and could not write a song without the other. Another part is the fact that their relationship is not conjugal, but rather brother-sister or best friends but their lyrics sound like they’re singing about a very complicated relationship with each other. Another is their unique gypsy/folk/pop/rock sound, with Wilson’s violin and the ukulele of Beggins being prominent instruments–lead and rhythm guitars not included.

The rest of the band is certainly worthy of mention here as a consideration too: Evan Magers’ keyboards powers the group and makes the band sound stronger than it otherwise would normally be, and that’s prominent to Runaround as compared to their first record Pillow Talk. Chris D’Annuzio’s electric bass keeps the drive going, and along with the drumming of Carey McGraw, lets us not forget that rock ‘n’ roll is rock ‘n’ roll.  And Saide Wolfe’s cello certainly adds a beauty and fullness to the band’s sound and works well between the singing of Beggins and Wilson.

Another aspect of the band is wandering attitude–their minds as well as their boot-heels. Wilson and Beggins started writing together on the road, one look at them live or on video gives the appearance that they were born there together and would be like fish out of water in any so-called permanent home. They exude a duo that has just stepped off the gypsy caravan for the night and are letting their hearts spill out with the confessions of love and dance.

Their first album, Pillow Talk, which they produced and distributed on a shoestring, was pure magic and popular too– so much so that it got 3 million listens on Spotify and had three songs from it hit number one on Hype Machine.

For their second, Ben Kweller came calling wanting to produce it, and the band abided. Beggins had doubts that throwing more money at their music could necessarily make it any better. And he was right– it’s not any better. But it is just as good (and that’s saying a lot)– it has a fuller, posher sound without losing the magic of the first LP– at least not most of it.

The opening title track,  “Runaround,” is a musically upbeat but a lyrically more complicated tune. Wilson sings,”Don’t mean to give the runaround/As you watch me turn away/Don’t mean to give the runaround/There’s not much more I can say” right after a catchy buildup of drums and bass, pacing ukulele and melodic keyboards. Her voice tails off as if unfulfilled that she cannot completely reveal her mind to the person she is for some reason unable to be totally frank with. Her message is: I don’t mean it, it’s nothing personal but sadly we’ll have to leave it at that. The bridge is sung as a fast duet, that while not the highlight of the song because of the catchy verse, chorus and introspective lyric, is a real treat.

On “Victim to Charm,” Beggins and Wilson’s singing together creates a magical atmosphere that feels like a happy circus, both musically (with the ukulele and violin) and vocally.  The message is “Dear, did you know, that our days were numbered a long time ago?” as the singer tries to cope with a relationship coming to an end.

“Crazy Bird,” the previously released single from this album has probably the strongest hook. It is another one of those songs that sound happy, but lyrically is really not so. Wilson’s snappy voice is in beautiful contrast to her more somber violin play. The upbeat beginning with catchy whistle eventually leads into lyrics “Oh how, how we suppose to go on not knowing if you bleed the way I do?” It’s about calling a truce amid fear and doubts in relationships that make us all feel vulnerable, but not without a dash of humor: Wilson says, “Well, I’m glad,” and Beggins responds, “Well, so am I.”

At its mid-stretch is “Coming Home,” a light and harmonic uke song with a memorable chorus that explains the epiphany of “now I find I want you for my own.”

“Stitches” is a more Beggins-featured song. He lightly wails, “I want to come home because I miss your bones and I’m sick and tired of always sleeping alone.”

“Anna Maria” finds Beggins and Wilson singing together in the middle, referring to individuals they both had affairs with in-between their attempts to have a lasting relationship.

“This Place” starts delicately. Wilson beautifully sings, “I can’t tell if what I’m losing now you could actually replace, so I’ll let my heart settle where my head lays.” The violin  responds movingly to Beggin’s singing “If only she knew how I feel.” Wilson and Beggin’s vocals move effortlessly alongside, on the top and to the bottom of each other like birds flying in changing formation as winter creeps in.

The eight track of the album, “Here Now,” in which Wilson takes the lead, is about forgetting one’s mistakes of the past and learning to live in the moment: “getting lost in the things we forgot–here now.” There is something incredibly childlike about Wilson that helps her to deliver honest and stark realizations about life without putting people on the defensive.

“Living Tree” is a jump-the-juke song with a stomping beat accented by strings about a roller coaster relationship and how we influence each other for better or worse.

“Rillo Talk,” a spacey play on their now famous “Pillow Talk,”  is Beggin’s favorite of the album, a bass-driven-uke-cello gem with Beatle-esque psychedelic harmonies. Wilson’s vocals sound angelic.

The closing track of the album, “Left Behind” starts, “We’re never who we think we are cause we were born to change our mind/Surprising we don’t give a damn about the friends we left behind,” making the listener think philosophically about both our behavior and what really matters in life. The song is like a book of parables from Wilson, and not always with such a positive outlook about human nature, “Those friends you think you’ll never lose will soon forget your name.”

Until you see them perform live, you can’t really get the gist of the musical relationship of Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins.

When Wilson performs with her lovely voice and haunting violin she looks like she’s channeling someone in-between an angel and a faerie. She looks possessed–like it is about to jump out of her body.

Beggins, standing alongside her, is a equal musical match. When you look at him with beardless mustache, you swear to yourself you have seen him somewhere before. Perhaps a morph of Jim Croce and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, only reincarnated straight out of the womb with a ukulele. His vocals sound like an old friend spinning a yarn with a little bit of wisdom injected for good measure.

There is not a guitar on this LP and simultaneously there is not a bad song either– and I am a big guitar guy. The main reason is the melodic relationship between Wilson and Beggins. It is very real and tangible musical genius. And whatever tensions may be there underneath (she is someone else’s fiancee), they surely are  empowered to make beautiful music together.

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