The Upshot: A decisive stylistic change for the group, having expanded both its lineup and its sound to embrace a denser, more complex approach to songcraft.
BY FRED MILLS
What a remarkable record—weird, yet compelling, in equal parts dissonance and luminosity; a seductive tease that nevertheless exudes the kind of warm familiarity that marks the best indie rock. Plum is the fourth album from Los Angeles quintet Wand—Cory Hanson (vocals, guitar), Sofia Arreguin (synth, vocals), Robert Cody (guitar), Lee Landey (bass), Evan Burrows (drums)—and it’s as far removed from the group’s garage rock roots (in the past, Wand was typically compared to outfits like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees) as it could be—mark my words, the namedrops from here on will be along the lines of Big Star, The Move, Guided by Voices, and Wilco.
Part of the change is probably due to natural evolution; when Hanson formed the band in 2013, Wand was initially a three-piece, but by 2016 the decision was made to add a second guitarist and synth player, resulting in a considerably more expansive sound. Too, Hanson has grown a great deal as a songwriter, and while he hasn’t completely abandoned the high-octane approach—several of the songs on Plum give plenty of love to the group’s effects pedals, and the drummer doesn’t hold back when the arrangement calls for it—even the most overt fuzzy thumpers here have a depth and sonic complexity that speaks to Hanson’s growing maturity and confidence. Too, Arreguin’s keyboards in bring additional texture and atmosphere to the material (it’s quite possible she’ll turn out to be the group’s secret weapon in concert), and she also helps sweeten the band’s vocal palette, with Hanson in turn allowing himself to croon with conviction where he might have once yelped and sneered.
The title track is emblematic of the album as a whole, its reassuring pop handshake marked by a gorgeous melody, chugging keys, Beatlesque guitars, lush vocal harmonies, and an overall psychedelic vibe. And the nearly eight-minute “Blue Cloud” finds the band going full-on Prog, via a tingly, twinkly ambiance—the Wilco comparison is unavoidable here— a series of twinned angular/jangly fretboard sequences, and a rhythmic pulse that’s downright hypnotic.
It will be a challenge for the band to recreate Plum in concert, and part of the pleasure factor for fans will be to witness Wand’s creativity as artists flowering before their eyes.
DOWNLOAD: “Blue Cloud,” “Plum,” “The Trap”