ARTIST: Wild Belle
The Bergman siblings, Natalie and Elliot, are an infectious duo with style and class straight out of the 60’s. As Wild Belle, they made a name for themselves and reinvented the indie pop scene with heavy island reggae influences. They are a dynamic combination that’s both bubbly and enticing. Their album is a breath of fresh air, poignantly entitled Isles (2013) because, as Natalie says, every song on it exists as its own island of a story. Natalie’s soulful voice is often layered on top of itself often on the tracks, harmonizing with both herself and her brother.
Growing up in a loving family from Chicago, Elliot and Natalie shared music in their teens, inadvertently sculpting each other’s tastes: “[Elliot] sort of turned me on to jazz music and West African music, and it’s helped me find my own path,” Natalie told InterviewMagazine. “He gave me a good core of world music to listen to, and my mother gave me, and my dad gave me a nice door to roots music — roots, soul folk — and Africa and other regions of the Caribbean. And so you have a lot of influences combined, but I hope that in the record you can hear the different world of sounds.”
They played instruments in their youth, and at age fifteen Natalia casually played around with a tambourine and sang backup vocals in Elliot’s Afro beat band Nomo. The Bergman siblings honed each others ears, older brother showing younger sister the ropes of the music industry. Eight years later, Wild Belle’s authentic island-blues album stands out as an instant success because it reflects their individuality: from memory they incorporate sounds and instruments from around the globe, making their first album, Isles.
Lyrically, Wild Belle’s piercing content in Isles is a diary on romantic relationships. Natalie attributes the album’s content to a broken heart, some brief mistakes, and a sorrow that is “beyond heartbreak.” The catchy lyrics often touch upon the loss of love, the lack of romance in today’s day and age, and competition with other women. They are based on Natalie’s personal experiences, and boy, does her love life fluctuate! The album sounds young, but not inexperienced. It’s light, and finds its anchor in the lyrical rhythm. Elliot’s generous saxophone accompaniments steer this album away from seeming too Lana Del Rey-gone reggae, adding a bit of class to their beach-y, indie feel.
While maybe not living up to their self nomenclature of “Wild,” the Bergman duo has created a collection that you can cozy up to or dance along with. It’s airy, layered tunes leave some gaps in dimension along the way, but, then again, it lends itself to a more expansive application. As a first album for a pair of twenty-somethings, Isles is a job well done with plenty of room to grow.
“What’s the definition of love if it isn’t material things?”