The subtle art of creating atmosphere has become an all too rare tool in music lately. An album can be as catchy as possible, but when it lacks a certain atmosphere -- a definite feeling -- it tends to feel fruitless and bare. However for the Alabama quartet Wild Sweet Orange and their first full length LP, We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, there's that definite feel of emotional integrity and a genuine, fully charged atmosphere. It flows from dark and haunting, to bright and uplifting like a creek flowing through a bleak forest with cracks of sunlight breaking through the canopy. Each vivid imagery of death and utter despair are nothing above the norm for groups of the genre, but it all depends on how well it is executed, and for Wild Sweet Orange, they near the pinnacle of emotional depth.
The group is lead by Preston Lovinggood whose daunting vocals begin the album with a chilling performance. He carries this breathy, distance singing throughout the album, until of course he breaks out into total shouting, keeping you engaged throughout the slippery slope that the emotions take. He hits some impressive, inspiring highs on the few crescendos sprinkled throughout the record. The swift uppercut of a shout on Tilt, hits you with a sudden rush of emotional strength and really takes you into what he's saying. He ebbs and flows like this throughout the album, never overusing a tone past its welcome, and it's certainly appreciated.
While there isn't an apparent variation among the sounds of the album, what is lacking in variance is made up for in excellent lyricism and engaging emotional charge. The music does its duty to set up the moody backdrop for the sometimes fantastic lyricism. The smooth acoustic licks and simple drum patterns among the slick bass lines and electric guitar never really differ, only merely adjust to fit the next songs lyrics. However there are some really excellent, however rare moments where the music really shines. When the guitars cut out and you're only left with the soft keyboard and Lovinggood backed by Kate Taylor on House Of Regret, it really hits you and remains one of the most memorable parts of the album. The song soon builds back up to hit you hard once again with another of Lovinggood's shouting matches. It's these raw moments that stick out as easily some of the best on the album, and really brings out the beauty in some of the lyrics. Another excellent moment occurs on the chorus of Aretha's Gold, where it's shown that Lovinggood is best with his acoustic guitar.
You're as tameless as an ocean
I want to love you but commotion
Oh, it ravages me whole
Oh, and me
I'm as dramatic as the thunder
My lightning scares her, she rolls over
Oh yeah, she needs to get some sleep
And as previously mentioned, Lovinggood does a stellar job of portraying each and every dark undertone, but he's not alone. There's quite a few guest singers to help provoke that feeling that Lovinggood is striving for, and they work to great effect. From the simple Ooh's from Rebekah Fox on Atlas To Follow, to a vocal underlay from Katie Crutchfield on Seeing And Believing, it's the small additions that accentuate Lovinggood's atmospheric, moody tones. While the other members pitch in their vocals here and there, it's really Lovinggood that steals the show in every regard. His vocals and his acoustic guitar could easily be used as a one man act, and that slightly takes away from the band's overall merit.
I could be cynical and say it's all been done before, that album's with gloomy atmospheres and images of death has been done better, but I won't. We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, is a refreshing taste of the smooth emotion that is unfortunately absent in most music I've heard lately. It's a lengthy release, and probably not for most casual radio listeners, but for those that can indulge in the sounds and feelings of Wild Sweet Orange, it's a fun, memorable ride. While the band is currently on hiatus, one can only hope that they hone in on their skills and make another excellent LP in the future. For now, I'll just keep Ten Dead Dogs on repeat.