The sole purely exuberant note on the album, “Bad Girl” is a Motown-inspired celebration of the birth of Kelsey’s first niece. “Oklahoma,” a harmony-soaked strings showcase that kicks off with an electro-pop tease, was slated for The Runaround but didn’t quite fit until Fools. Originally intended for Pillow Talk, “Stones” was mined from lyrics Kelsey penned when she was 15 years old. Now, it’s part bubbly piano-man ramble, part sweeping string-led drama, capped off by a brassy New Orleans breakdown––a perfect example of the band’s increasingly virtuosic ability to stretch and crisply fold genres into their ever-expanding repertoire.
“Break Bones” is a stunner––a big, bold, beautiful pop song praying a fight continues indefinitely, because that’s all that’s left. “Trillo Talk,” a last minute addition to the record and an ideal closer, winks to fan favorites “Pillow Talk” and “RilloTalk” and soars triumphantly. “It’s the last thought––everything is going to be okay…but it’s not. But, it feels alright,” Alexander says.
Vocally, Alexander strolls, steady and wry, as Kelsey skips, runs, and hops, all whirly energy and instinctive phrasing. “I think my voice just sits nice underneath hers,” Alexander says, simply and accurately. “The two of us never really intended to be singers and still don’t really consider ourselves singers,” says Kelsey, without a hint of irony. NPR’s Ann Powers likened her voice to that of a “Jazz Age Broadway baby,” but bring up that and other praise, and Kelsey just laughs and emphasizes, “I don’t think of myself as a singer. I think of it just like talking. We’re just having a conversation.”
In their musical repartee, Wild Child doesn’t pull punches. Their songs sting as they groove, cutting lyrics massaged by cooing vocals and bouncy ukulele. So we’re dancing and laughing before we realize we’ve got tears in our eyes, entranced by Wild Child’s dizzying contradiction: sour truths that sound so sweet.
“The instruments may belong in a granola commercial, but what we’re saying is often dark and angry and bitter,” says Kelsey. “It wasn’t until Alexander and I started writing music together that we were like, ‘Damn. Are we sad?’”
“There is a beauty in lyric writing that is almost too honest,” Alexander says. “We’ve always tried to poke holes in that terrible thing that nobody really wants to think about.”
Fools is an unashamed breakup album, but it’s more than last rites for lovers. The record also bids farewell to the traditional lives Kelsey and Alexander had thought lie in store.
“We’re about to live day to day for a long time, and our relationships are going to fall apart,” Kelsey says. “Our home lives are going to fall apart. And there’s nothing we can do about it. So, the record is also about letting go of expectations, just playing the fool. Fools is a release––a blind step out.”