Feeling the pain, the pleasure, the sadness and the happiness of others, mirror-touch synaesthesia is a rare neurological condition that causes hyper-empathy. Mirror Touch, the title of the new Wild Ones album, refers to that condition, physically and emotionally experiencing the physical and emotional experience of others.
The Portland based five piece band – who’ve been together for seven years – grew up listening to the likes of Cocteau Twins and En Vogue. Mirror Touch is a glimmering piece of indie dream pop, combining bright melodies with darker lyrical themes and held together by lead singer Danielle Sullivan’s soaring honeyed vocal. There’s a pure, sugary tone to her voice, the same sweetness you’ll find in the vocal of the likes of Cults, Emilie Nicolas and Sälen.
With ten songs of around three minutes each, Mirror Touch is a traditional pop album in format. ‘Night Shift’ veers away from this structure, a brooding piano interlude of less than two minutes that feels more ominous than the rest of the record. Elsewhere, dreamy soundscapes, lush textures and hazy guitar riffs meander from track to track. There’s an undulating groove in ‘Do You Really’ and ‘Invite Me In’. “Don’t you feel like a fraud sometimes? You don’t show them the cold inside,” Danielle sings, curiously upbeat, in a pointed remark on society’s intent on exhibiting only the best of yourself.
The opening track and lead single off Mirror Touch is ‘Paresthesia’, a tingling or numbness more commonly known as pins and needles. Written in a time of challenging anxiety, ‘Paresthesia’ narrates Sullivan’s battle with isolation, fighting to stop her anxiety adversely affecting her relationships. “I was pushing you away, now I’m on my own,” she croons, here perpetuating the bands ability to offset melancholy content with luminous instrumentation.
Wild Ones explore the notion of the itch you can’t scratch, the best and worst of uninhibited, frustrating desire. “I’ve gotta cool down, my thoughts are dangerous,” Sullivan sings, “fighting a craving” in ‘Standing in the Back of Your Show’. Floating above twinkling synths, ‘Love And Loathing’ confronts the fact that “infatuation is hard to hide”. ‘Wanna Be Your Man’ feels slightly formulaic in the auto tune and rhythm of the vocal loop, but it’s catchy nonetheless, and “I never waited for anything for so long” is laced with a relatable temptation.
Sonically Wild Ones have found a formula that works for them and they’ve stuck with it. At times the instrumentation and patterns in Mirror Touch feel too familiar, but introspective lyrics and subtle changes in rhythm deftly combat those moments.