Wil Wagner is young frontman of The Smith Street Band - the bunch of excitable DIY folk-punkers who made a big splash in 2012 with their sophomore effort Sunshine & Technology.
You’d be forgiven for thinking his solo debut Laika, sounds like a handful of potential Smith Street songs that Wagner decided he would just sit down and record alone between his main gig’s relentless touring schedule. Which might be exactly what happened. But this album is not an iota worse for it.
The stark acoustic backdrop gives our songwriter some space to cautiously try out a few new things. While he rests on his lovably familiar smartass drunk act for the record’s opener Eviction Notices, he then spins out a quirky, melancholy tribute to Laika, the Soviet mongrel that was the first living thing sent into space, on the title track. Wagner conjures up an atmosphere of thoughtful introspection. He’s hinted at it before on Smith Street tracks, but here he’s able to really stretch out and explore this side of himself.
At just shy of a half-hour and with its bare-bones arrangements, Laika might feel a bit undercooked to some. Wagner though rarely feels short on ideas or passion and the record rewards repeat listening. A lovely little offering from one of our most exciting songwriters.
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