Today we announce Wilder Maker’s wonderful and beautifully layered new album, Male Models, which will be released on July 29 via Western Vinyl. This Brooklyn band features a dynamic roster of musicians, including singer-songwriter Gabriel Birnbaum, backed by Nick Jost and Sean Mullins.
The band members play regularly with Debo Band, Mutual Benefit, Baroness, Kevin Garrett, Johanna Samuels and Hannah Cohen. Male Models features guest vocalists: Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), Katie Von Schleicher, Felicia Douglass (Dirty Projectors, Ava Luna), Alex Schaaf (Yellow Ostrich), VV Lightbody and Mutual Benefit.
A prime example of Birnbaum’s distinct writing style can be found in the opener “Letter of Apology,” which drops today, June 2. Birnbaum sings: “Sorry I told your sister’s boyfriend he was the biggest freak in history. I got up in a chair and announced at the party that we all live in a fiction .” Thanks to an unreliable narrator, Birnbaum set the stage, cracked a joke, and confessed to a devastating existential crisis — in just two lines. Birnbaum tells Brooklyn Vegan:
“Letter” is a catchy pop song about apocalyptic depression. It’s been part of the live set for years, but it took us a while to get that manic edge it needed on record. I remember bringing a stack of songs I had lost perspective on to Katie’s apartment to see if they were any good. , and as soon as we started singing the chorus of this one together, it was electric. She didn’t want to do the guitar solo at first, but we finally persuaded her, and she killed it.”
Ask Gabriel Birnbaum what inspired Male Models – New York band Wilder Maker’s diverse new album – and he’ll mention everything from American novelist James Salter and the NBA playoffs to Thin Lizzy and the delicate tightrope of positive masculinity. These reference points may seem arbitrary to the uninitiated listener, but together they provide insight into the creation of an album that somehow manages to be both an apocalyptic novel of ideas and the playlist of cohesive party you’ve ever heard.
Male Models’ music was recorded live over several days with a core band consisting of Birnbaum and longtime collaborators Nick Jost and Sean Mullins. Despite his status as leader and primary songwriter of Wilder Maker, Birnbaum’s vocals can only be heard on seven of the twelve songs.
The remaining tracks have guest vocalists taking the mic, unveiling an impressive lineup that includes (but is not limited to) Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, Katie Von Schleicher and Jordan Lee (aka Mutual Benefit). Like guests at a bizarre afterparty, when you hear these accomplished singers recount Birnbaum’s tales of unrequited love, drunkenness and despair, it sounds almost voyeuristic, as if you’re sitting in a crowded cocktail bar, glancing furtively at nearby tables.
“We all listen to a lot of playlists, even us die-hard album fans,” Birnbaum admits, “I’ve kept an ever-expanding playlist of songs that I never want to ignore, with all these different voices back to back. I wanted to make a record that felt like a playlist that way; it became kind of a songwriting challenge for me.”
Male Models manages to capture the energy of a crowded party and the playlist that accompanies it without losing the philosophical underpinnings of its concept. Musically, it also constantly changes form. Across the album’s 12 songs, listeners will hear electrified soul, heartfelt folksongs, indie rock and searing barn burners, all of which are deftly tied together by Birnbaum’s sardonic and disastrous storytelling.
After a series of self-releases and home recordings, Wilder Maker gained national attention via their Saddle Creek 7″ New Streets in 2017 and went on to release their debut label Zion with Northern Spy Records in 2018, receiving the praise from Stereogum, Vice, Fader, and Pitchfork along the way.
Male Models is a crystallization of the more sprawling style of the 2018 LP, pushing back the corners of the longer songs and wrapping them into bite-size shapes that revolve heavily around the live studio performance and kinetic energy of the core trio. , who made music together for nearly a decade.
Watch the first single’s visualizer here: