Unknown

The fourth full-length from Wild Pink, ILYSM unfolds with all the fractured beauty of a dreamscape. Over
the course of 12 chameleonic tracks, the New York-bred rock band build another world inhabited by
ghosts and angels and aliens, inciting a strange and lovely daze as the backdrop shifts from the mundane
(subdivisions, highways, hotel parking lots) to the extraordinary (deserts, battlefields, the moon). But
within its vast imagination lies a potent truth-telling on the part of singer/guitarist John Ross, whose lyrics
closely examine his recent struggle with cancer. The follow-up to 2021’s A Billion Little Lights—a critically
acclaimed effort praised by the likes of Pitchfork, NPR, Vulture, and Stereogum, who named it “one of the
prettiest rock records of the past decade”—ILYSM emerges as a truly revelatory body of work,
transforming the most painful reflection into moments of transcendence.
As Ross reveals, ILYSM’s feverish yet fragile intensity has much to do with the unmooring experience of
being diagnosed with cancer early in the writing process. Now in the surveillance phase of recovery, Ross
explains, “Even though I’d already started working on the record, everything took on new meaning after
my diagnosis. I started writing songs that tried to make sense of the whole experience, including the love
and support I felt from the people in my life—particularly my wife, which is where the title came from.”
Co-produced by Ross with Justin Pizzoferrato (Pixies, Body/Head, Speedy Ortiz) and Peter Silberman of
The Antlers, ILYSM finds Wild Pink joining forces with a thrilling lineup of guest musicians, including J
Mascis, Julien Baker, Ryley Walker, Yasmin Williams and Samantha Crain. As the most experimental
work to date from Wild Pink—whose lineup also includes bassist Arden Yonkers and drummer Dan
Keegan—the album embodies a finespun yet mercurial sound embedded with so many unexpected
details (e.g., the spirited gang vocals of its title track, the slippery grooves and unearthly narration of
“Abducted at the Grief Retreat,” Mascis’s frenetic solo on “See You Better Now”). Mainly recorded at
Sonelab in Easthampton, Massachusetts, ILYSM ultimately marks a bold departure from the lush
orchestration of A Billion Little Lights, yet still bears an endlessly immersive quality. “I wanted to make a
record with more organic elements than the last one,” says Ross. “Playing live in the room together as a
band was very important to me—I really leaned on them to bring their talents to the table, which they did.”
An album informed by the odd poetry of everyday life, ILYSM opens on “Cahooting The Multiverse”—a
gorgeously hazy track encapsulated by Ross as “a stream-of-consciousness tune inspired by watching
the light come in through the sugar maples where I live, or taking a walk by the school and seeing this
little mountain of cigarettes where the teachers sneak out to smoke behind the cedar trees.” From there,
Wild Pink drift into the quiet grandeur of “Hold My Hand” feat. Julien Baker, one of ILYSM’s most
profoundly vulnerable moments. “I wrote that song right after my first surgery, about lying on the operating
table where a member of the surgical team held my hand right before I went under,” says Ross. “It sounds
kind of arbitrary, and like it shouldn’t have been as impactful as it was, but I felt very comforted and
wanted to capture that loving feeling in the song.” Featuring the elegant piano work of David Moore
(leader of the ambient ensemble Bing & Ruth), the result is a hypnotic piece of chamber-pop, brightened
by Baker’s warm and wistful vocals.
Graced with the dreamy pedal-steel tones of Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner (Magnolia Electric Co., Badly Drawn
Boy) and the syrupy clarinet of Jeremy Viner (Bing & Ruth), “War on Terror” presents a lonesome and
sprawling portrait of wandering the beach at night, once again illuminating the gently jarring effect of
Ross’s lyrics (“Stay in the ocean because it’s just me/And the big moon rowing across the sky/Time is
always moving to the right/And measured in things like tumor markers”). “There’s a running theme
throughout this record of the moon being a constant companion, and I think that comes across in this
song the most,” notes Ross. And on “Sucking on the Birdshot,” Wild Pink deliver one of ILYSM’s most
devastating tracks: a six-and-a-half-minute epic driven by crashing rhythms and gloriously careening riffs.
“I was in Florida and saw a sandhill crane by the side of the road; its partner had been killed by a car, and

the bird was mourning and screaming in pain—I’ve never heard anything like it,” says Ross. “They’re
these very striking birds that look like dinosaurs, and I came to learn that they mate for life, which is
unusual in the animal kingdom. I had that in mind when I wrote this song about a pure expression of love
in the natural world, and how your own first love can feel huge in a similar way.”
For Ross, the process of bringing ILYSM to life provided a certain sense of escape, even at its most
daunting moments. (“I was actually back in another cancer surgery within a week of wrapping up the
recording,” he recalls. “It was pretty surreal to record this album knowing I had cancer in my lymph
nodes—but since I couldn’t have the surgery any sooner, I just stuck with my studio time.”) And with the
release of ILYSM, Wild Pink hope the album might supply others with their own outlet for solace and
catharsis. “Writing about all this has helped me process my experience, or even just acknowledge that I
still don’t completely understand how I feel about it,” says Ross. “It’s been a very confusing, overwhelming
time, and hopefully it’ll offer some kind of comfort to anyone else who’s feeling overwhelmed or confused
too.”

Pick 4

Trace Mountains

Trace Mountains is the musical project of American indie rock musician Dave Benton. He has released 3 studio records since formally starting the band in 2018, A Partner to Lean On, Lost in the Country and most recently, House of Confusion. Benton was formerly a member of the lo-fi band Lvl UP.

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Nick Delffs

Nick Delffs creates music that straddles the divide between modern and retro, an intriguing union of classic and contemporary.

Nick Delffs is a seeker. He’d never identify himself that way. He’s unassuming and self-effacing, careful to discuss song meanings and biographical details without indulgence or melodrama. Delffs cut his teeth playing basement shows in Portland a dozen years ago, just before that city’s cover was irreversibly blown. It was a time when being musically ambitious meant impressing other local musicians. You were a joke, in that world, if you proclaimed yourself an artist or promoted your band with any zeal. So Delffs would probably find “seeker” a rather grandiose title.

But Nick Delffs is, in fact, a seeker. He’s an old-school rustler of the human condition; a tireless navigator of social and spiritual landscapes; a genuinely curious and wide-eyed, mankind-enthusiast. Soon after meeting him, one gets the impression that Delffs could be dropped in some far corner of the Earth and he’d not only survive, but he’d make a lot of friends—maybe even start a new band. In both casual conversation and his songwriting, Delffs gravitates to the universal. That’s his search. His life’s work is in the identification and removal of our shared illusions. And that is, largely, what Delffs writes songs about. Songs come to him when he’s “feeling detached from the world but totally in love with it at the same time,” he says. “Mostly they come when I am patient and I don’t need them or care about them too much.”

They happen to be pretty catchy songs. Delffs first emerged in 2003 as the frontman for the seminal Portland band The Shaky Hands, known for their jangly, pulsing and introspective songs and their high-energy live shows. The band would sign to the venerable Kill Rock Stars imprint and tour internationally with bands like The Shins and Meat Puppets.

In a world of noise and madness, he will use his music to try and scratch at something human and real. Something helpful. Nick Delffs is a seeker. He shares his discoveries. The latest album Redesign is his greatest gift yet.