Wild Belle siblings Natalie (vocals) and Elliot Bergman (multi-instrumentalist) use their Chicago roots to coalesce elements of rock and roll, jazz, reggae and a pinch of folk for an eclectic sound. The duo’s debut album Isles, out this month,sends listeners on a musical voyage with eleven fresh songs soaked with good vibes.
Opening with their breakout single of the season, “Keep You”, Natalie Bergman immediately draws listeners in with her foxy voice. Her voice has a soothing tone whether she’s softly cooing or effortlessly hitting all the high notes. Call it what you want, but she’s got swag out the bag. And don’t forget the sax—Wild Belle is all about that.
This song, like many others on the album, reverberates a 70s groove, projecting an old-school sound in their instrumentation. Any track on Isles will set the right mood, each addressing its own issue in the realm of romance. Even the hopeless romantic’s anthem “It’s Too Late” will turn the droopiest frown upside down. “Backslider” has the same effect, bouncing between that feisty alt-rock and jazz/reggae flow.
While others have complained that the middle of the album is sluggish, I argue that it preserves a strong center that keeps the whole thing together. However, I will admit that some of the songs in this section will send listeners to a short snooze fest. “Happy Home” feels like a time warp, moving at leisurely pace that allows the listener to sit back, chillax and appreciate all of the luscious sounds dripping through the speakers.
“Another Girl” evokes an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar mantra. Natalie pleads the question, “Didn’t I treat you right?” At the end of the day, any lady can relate to Natalie recalling the bits and pieces of over-analyzing her every move. However, it’s one thing to whine about getting screwed over by a man and quite another to reflect on the relationship from both points of view, addressing where both parties went wrong. Although in this case, it’s Team Natalie all the way— ain’t nobody got time for a cheating man.
“Love Like This” spins listeners back in the direction on the road of love. The tune carries this happy-go-lucky, carefree attitude, emphasized by reggae beats and a variety of horns and percussion that practically come straight from the tropical islands. With cute lines like “I like your style/ I like your smile/ everything about you,” it’s easy to get swept up into feeling the love.
Towards the end of the album, Elliot actually takes the lead on vocals in “When It’s Over”. The switch is a pleasant surprise and a nice contrast with Natalie’s voice, which chimes in after the first verse. The sax also plays along, complementing the siblings as they sing back and forth to each other.
If someone ever asked me to describe what paradise sounds like, I would pump up the volume and play them Isles on repeat. Wild Belle has created a distinct sound that is refreshing to hear and oh-so-pleasing to the ears. Viva la vie bohème!