Stream Anika Pyle’s Stunning Debut Solo Album Wild River

Stream Anika Pyle’s Stunning Debut Solo Album Wild River

Anika Pyle’s distinctive voice has been at the center of Chumped, yelling out catchy emo anthems, and at the center of Katie Ellen, channeling a lilted country twang. She’s been making music for the better part of a decade and, over the last couple years, Pyle has put out a few tracks on her own. Today, she’s releasing her debut solo album, Wild River. It’s a remarkable piece of work, quiet and reverent and comforting in its dedication to figuring things out one song at a time.

Written in the torrent of emotions that comes after losing a parent, it includes dedications to Pyle’s late father (on the gutting “Orange Flowers”) as well as recordings from her grandmother on her deathbed. Pyle has always been interested in the ways the generations before us paved the way for who we are today — her Katie Ellen moniker came from her great-grandmother, by way of a name she adopted for herself as a radio personality — and Wild River is about becoming more in touch with both your bloodline and the world around you.

It’s a sonic departure from any of the music Pyle made with Chumped or Katie Ellen, filled with pillowy synths and empty space and crisp acoustic guitar. Pyle’s poetry, some sung and some spoken, all reflects on a gnawing ache, like water circling a drain. The whole album is better taken in as a whole, probably part of the reason why Pyle didn’t release any advance singles when she announced it last month. But there are more defined songs on Wild River, too, ones that echo the sort of sharp songwriting Pyle has always been good at, on the syrupy slow-dance of “Emerald City” and the scratchy and reflective “Monarch Butterflies,” which asks: “Isn’t that enough?”

All of the songs try to answer that question, surrounded by the bare textures that Pyle has created. Her words are often taken aback by the vastness of the world and how small you can seem within it and the music matches that sort of feeling. A lot of these songs reflect on deferring your dreams but realizing that maybe the dream you thought you wanted wasn’t what you wanted after all, that maybe there’s something to be said for sticking to a routine and being content with what you have. “The missed opportunities/ The voodoo of scheduling,” Pyle sings on one song, lamenting how things feel like they never line up just right. “If only the Earth right here right now would answer when I ask it, ‘Why can’t I have the things that I’m after?” I think it might say, ‘Look up you dummy.'”

That sort of sentiment might seem corny on the surface, but the way Pyle delivers it makes me believe it to be true. Pyle sings about becoming slower and more considered and less focused on the competitive aspects of creating art and more about creating for the sake of healing or renewal. “I wanted to be a wild river, but I’m a still country creek,” she sings on the opening title track. “I thought I’d be something special but chasing my dreams always made me a little too anxious.” There’s something to be said for taking things at your own pace and, as Wild River bears out, sometimes that pace ends up making something wonderful, as loss casts your own progress in stark relief.

Listen below.

Wild River is out now.

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