With a set of its own tales that deserve to be heard, the Wildheart Dreaming EP extends the latest chapter of the The Xcerts’ storied career.
Wildheart Dreaming arrives as somewhat of a surprise as, to me, it has always seemed that The Xcerts are a band that have always spread out the release of their material, adopting a quality over quantity approach. In saying this, I must confirm that I am not writing this release off but instead expressing joyous surprise that I won’t have to wait until >2020 to have new ‘certs material to bathe in.
The band’s latest EP is formed of 4 tracks, explained by the trio as being the songs that were recorded during the Hold Onto Your Heart sessions but were not quite right for that record. Nonetheless, what we have been gifted is another collection of pop-rock, lovelorn ballads – an art that the trio have become masters of over the past 10 years. Before I get into the finer analysis of the meat and potatoes of this EP, I must confess how much I love the title of the release. Coined from a lyric found at the pinnacle of lead single of Hold Onto Your Heart, Feels Like Falling in Love, the youthful, lustful and generally wonderful imagery evoked from the term ‘Wildheart Dreaming’ makes me fuzzy inside.
Alas, I will tame myself from going into complex and somewhat useless imagery here and get into the finer details of the release. Ahem…
The EP opens with You Mean Everything, the lead single of this project. The opening notes are wistful, with Murray McLeod’s vocals sounding somewhat breathless – it is immediately made clear that this project will follow the same, ‘I am utterly in love and must tell you about it’ vibe as their last LP. The verses have a beautifully pained sound as if they are a guilty admission of someone confessing their love. If this wasn’t enough to sell you on the song, the chorus – as expected – is monstrous. If there is one thing that everyone that knows the band will admit, it is that they know how to write a belting chorus. ‘You Mean Everything’ is, understandably, the hook of the track and is addressed by Murray in differing ways during the piece. There is very little I can fault with this one, it sounds like The Xcerts doing what they do best… tugging heartstrings and evoking smiles.
Ready to Call is up next. The licks of Jordan Smith’s bass that feature in the verses intermittently between McLeod’s vocals really help to add some delicate layers to the song. Similarly, the palm slides and woody accents delivered by Tom Heron hitting the rim of his drum in the breakdown make this track stand out among its peers. The chorus, again, is textbook Xcerts. You will probably find yourself singing ‘Ready to Call’ over and over again, smiling every time you find yourself doing it.
The introduction of Fight or Run is pulsing and youthful. The vocals feel as though they are locked and loaded – ready to explode at any moment, and the drums really give the opening verse its voice. During the course of this song, there is a feeling that it could burst into the chorus at any moment. This song is my favourite on the EP. There is something about the cyclical nature of the chorus, where it never seems to be able to escape the note that comes before it, that gives it a coming-of-age feel. Fight or Run is the perfect song for spring, with McLeod’s dizzying yet powerful vocals guiding you through the feeling of wanting the days to drag out a little longer.
Real Love is the closing track on the EP. It is an acoustic number which acts as a palate cleanser for not just the release but the entirety of the Hold Onto Your Heart period of the band’s existence. Surely their most successful to date, this song seems to be the perfect way to chapter this era of the band. Fans of The Xcerts – especially those that have been able to see renditions of Aberdeen 1987 in the flesh (most notably in the company of thousands at 2000trees festival) – this song, again, showcases the magic the band are able to produce when their sound stripped back. As a stand-alone song, I think it is full-bodied enough to end this EP but also delicate enough to touch on the same lovelorn themes that the band are famous for – all in all, it ends the EP on a strong note.
Of course, this EP feels to be more of an extension of Hold Onto Your Heart rather than a completely different body of work, however, I think it is one that the fans will cherish. If there is one thing that I have learnt from listening to this EP over the past couple of weeks, it’s that these songs were very unlucky not to be included in the LP. With that being said, the Wildheart Dreaming EP has its own heart, a sense of plucky brilliance that really makes it worth a listen. Every track offers something a little different from the last, but it still holds the tried and tested Xcerts blueprint at its core. As the band embark on an arena tour with pop titans Busted, it feels like, once again, the band could be about to get the recognition they deserve.