Present Tense is the fourth album in English quartet Wild Beasts’ impressive discography, following 2011’s Smother. The genre-ambivalent record blends elements of indie, alternative, rock, pop and electronic music to produce a refreshingly unique collection of chic and brooding tracks. Stunning high and low vocals interlock throughout the record, notably on A Simple Beautiful Truth which sees Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming trade vocal duties over a basic but enchanting melody.
Present Tense begins with the light drumming and synth beats belonging to the lead single Wanderlust, joined by Thorpe’s delicate voice as he repeats the not-so-delicate line “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck”, setting the tone for a collection of fiery lyrics and dark, brooding melodies.
Thorpe’s delicate falsetto vocal display is contrasted by the following track Nature Boy which sees Tom Fleming take over with his booming deeper voice. The track has somewhat of a wild sound with the deep, masculine voice of Fleming combined with jungle-esque drum and light synth beats.
The seemingly effortless way Thorpe controls his falsetto voice throughout Present Tense conjures thoughts of The Temper Trap’s front-man Dougy Mandagi – particularly on Mecca, a striking display of vocal talent against a subtle instrumental background.
A couple of the album’s biggest treats lie between the middle and back end of the collection, in Daughters and A Simple Beautiful Truth. The best parts of Present Tense are the ones where Thorpe and Fleming combine, complementing each other with their polar opposite vocal styles. Daughters is a gloomy sounding track which has Fleming’s low voice take lead, backed beautifully by Thorpe’s chilling highs. A Simple Beautiful Truth sees the two distribute duties evenly to create an interesting and impressive number.
After a few engaging, melancholic and hauntingly beautiful arrangements, the record winds down with Palace to finish off Present Tense on a much more upbeat and uplifting note than how it began. The closing track is heartfelt and soothing, marked with lovely high notes and “oooh”-ing its way in to being one of the album’s best flowing songs.
The only criticism of Present Tense is that it is mostly slow moving and without a high-energy track that leaps forward as a single highlight, which means it can at times feel repetitive if not appreciated fully. The subdued nature of the songs can leave listeners waiting for that extra something to really take it to the next level.
The almost-three-year pause between Present Tense and its predecessor is the longest Wild Beasts have taken between albums – but luckily for them it is worth the wait. The time off seems to have benefitted the boys from Kendal as they put their creativity to good use and created a pleasant and beautiful record.