Like every record Superchunk has made over the last thirty-someyears, Wild Loneliness is unskippably excellent and infectious.It’s a blend of stripped-down and lush, electric and acoustic,highs and lows, and I love it all. On Wild Loneliness I hearechoes of Come Pick Me Up, Here’s to Shutting Up, and MajestyShredding. After the (ahem, completely justifiable) anger ofWhat a Time to Be Alive, this new record is less about what we’velost in these harrowing times and more about what we have tobe thankful for. (I know something about gratitude. I’ve been ahuge Superchunk fan since the 1990s, around the same time Ifirst found my way to poetry, so the fact that I’m writing thesewords feels like a minor miracle.)
On Wild Loneliness, it feels like the band is refocusing onpossibility, and possibility is built into the songs themselves,in the sweet surprises tucked inside them. I say all the timethat what makes a good poem—the “secret ingredient”—issurprise. Perhaps the same is true of songs. Like when the saxcomes in on the title track, played by Wye Oak’s Andy Stack,adding a completely new texture to the song. Or when OwenPallett’s strings come in on “This Night.” But my favoritesurprise on Wild Loneliness is when the harmonies of NormanBlake and Raymond McGinley of Teenage Fanclub kick inon “Endless Summer.” It’s as perfect a pop song as you’ll everhear—sweet, bright, flat-out gorgeous—and yet it grappleswith the depressing reality of climate change: “Is this the yearthe leaves don’t lose their color / and hummingbirds, theydon’t come back to hover / I don’t mean to be a giant bummerbut / I’m not ready / for an endless summer, no / I’m not readyfor an endless summer.” I love how the music acts as a kind ofcounterweight to the lyrics.
Because of COVID, Mac, Laura, Jim, and Jon each recordedseparately, but a silver lining is that this method made otherlong-distance contributions possible, from R.E.M.’s MikeMills, Sharon Van Etten, Franklin Bruno, and TracyanneCampbell of Camera Obscura, among others. Some of thesongs for the record were written before the pandemic hit, butothers, like “Wild Loneliness,” were written from and aboutisolation.
I’ve been thinking of songs as memory machines. Every timewe play a record, we remember when we heard it before, andwhere we were, and who we were. Music crystallizes memoriesso well: listening to “Detroit Has a Skyline,” suddenly I’mshout-singing along with it at a show in Detroit twenty yearsago; listening to “Overflows,” I’m transported back to whisper-singing a slowed-down version of it to my young son, that yearit was his most-requested lullaby.
Wild Loneliness is becoming part of my life, part of mymemories, too. And it will be part of yours. I can picturepeople in 20, 50, or 100 years listening to this record andmarveling at what these artists created together—beauty,possibility, surprise—during this alarming (and alarminglyisolated) time. But why wait? Let’s marvel now.