Wild Beasts, Two Dancers

I tried to read a book the first time I listened to Two Dancers, the latest album from Leeds-based band Wild Beasts, but as soon as the bass crept in, followed by a precise, tribal beating of drums, I put my book down and listened to the whole album. And then, when it was over, I listened to it again.

Two Dancers has been called “hedonistic,” “slightly delirious,” “mercurial,” “intoxicating and disturbing,” “erotic downbeat,” “a record of earthly pleasures.” Most simply put: “a state of unique musical grace.” (It’s Pitchfork’s pick for Best New Music of the year.) Its range is wide, from New Wave to something akin to a Gilbert and Sullivan tune. It’s difficult to describe without using a lot of words because it’s made up of so many different parts. The most obvious of which is Hayden Thorpe’s voice, a countertenor that ranges from low, guttural and grating to a soaring, operatic, other-worldly falsetto, sometimes all within a single word. His vocal eccentricities are offset by Tom Flemming’s beautifully rich and deep voice. Both Thorpe and Flemming are as strong as they are different, and they swagger throughout the album, swapping highs and lows (Flemming can sing in falsetto, too) through what Flemming calls a very “human album.”

Wild Beasts spent most of the past year on tour for their previous album Limbo Panto. “When we play gigs,” Thorpe explains, “we’re sort of giving people an escape. It’s strange being in that environment, watching people lose themselves. With the new album, we wanted to capture an environment where people…are highly emotional and lose learnt behaviors.” Listening to Two Dancers is like being transported to that place, a spinning, emotive shifting of energy. Flemming is quick to add that “there’s a lot of sex and sexuality, but that’s an endless subject.”

While it’s true the lyrics are what some critics have called “sex-obsessed,” I’d argue that it’s the music itself, not the words, that makes Two Dancers so sexually charged. Sure, the quality of Thorpe and Flemming’s voices can be very sexy indeed, but the drumming, in particular, is one of the most vocal elements of the record. It references everything from tribal beats to Depeche Mode and is played, ironically, by the most reserved member of the band, Chris Talbot. It’s the driving force behind songs like “This Is Our Lot” that, when played live, has all four musicians writhing onstage. If you look at each of them, however, they all move to their own beat, and that’s a big part of what makes Wild Beasts the most original band I’ve heard in a very long time. Their individual musical styles may run the gamut, but together they produce the most unexpected, captivating fusion of ideas and sounds you’ll hear all year.