Today we announce Wilder Maker’s wondrous, beautifully layered new album Male Models out July 29thvia Western Vinyl. This Brooklyn band features a dynamic roster of musicians, including singer-songwriter Gabriel Birnbaum, accompanied by Nick Jost and Sean Mullins. Band members play regularly with Debo Band, Mutual Benefit, Baroness, Kevin Garrett, Johanna Samuels, and Hannah Cohen. Male Modelsfeatures guest lead vocalists: Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), Katie Von Schleicher, Felicia Douglass (Dirty Projectors, Ava Luna), Alex Schaaf (Yellow Ostrich), V.V. Lightbody, and Mutual Benefit.
A great example of Birnbaum’s distinct songwriting style can be found in the opening track ‘Letter of Apology’, out today, June 2nd. Birnbaum sings: “Sorry that I told your sister’s boyfriend that he was history’s greatest monster. I got up on a chair and announced to the party that we were all living in a fiction.” Through an unreliable narrator, Birnbaum has set the stage, cracked a joke, and confessed a devastating existential crisis – in just two lines.
Birnbaum tells BrooklynVegan: “Letter” is a hooky pop song about apocalyptic depression. It’s been a part of the live set for years but it took us a while to get that manic edge it needs on record.I remember bringing a pile of songs I’d lost perspective on over to Katie’s apartment to see if they were any good, and as soon as we started singing the chorus on this one together it felt electric. She didn’t want to play the guitar solo at first, but we persuaded her eventually, and she kills it.”
Ask Gabriel Birnbaum what inspired Male Models – the diverse new album from New York band Wilder Maker – 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 might sound arbitrary to the uninitiated listener, but together they provide some insight into the creation of an album that somehow succeeds at being both an apocalyptic novel of ideas and the most cohesive party playlist that you’ve ever heard.
The music of Male Models was recorded live over several days with a core band that consisted of Birnbaum and longtime collaborators Nick Jost and Sean Mullins. Despite his status as the frontman and principal songwriter of Wilder Maker, Birnbaum’s voice can only be heard singing lead on seven of the twelve songs. The remaining tracks have guest vocalists taking the mic, unveiling an impressive lineup that includes (but isn’t limited to) Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, Katie Von Schleicher, and Jordan Lee (aka Mutual Benefit). Like guests at a strange afterparty, when you hear these accomplished vocalists recount Birnbaum’s tales of unrequited love, drunkenness, and desperation, it feels almost voyeuristic, as if you were sitting in a crowded cocktail bar, sneaking glances at nearby tables.
“We all listen to playlists a lot, even us album diehards” Birnbaum admits, “I’ve been keeping an ever-expanding playlist of songs that I never want to skip, with all of these different voices back to back. I wanted to make a record that sounded like a playlist in this way; it became a kind of songwriting challenge for me.”
Male Models succeeds in capturing the energy of a crowded party and its accompanying playlist without losing the philosophical underpinnings of its concept. Musically, it also changes shape constantly. Across the 12 songs of the album, listeners will hear electrified soul, heartfelt folk songs, indie rock, and searing barn burners, all of which are expertly tethered by Birnbaum’s sardonic and doom-laden storytelling.
After a series of self-releases and home recordings, Wilder Maker came to national attention via their Saddle Creek 7” New Streets in 2017 and subsequently released their label debut Zion with Northern Spy Records in 2018, receiving praise from Stereogum, Vice, Fader, and Pitchfork along the way. Male Models is a crystallization of the more sprawling style of the 2018 LP, knocking the corners off the more extended songs and packing them into bite size forms that revolve heavily around the live studio performance and kinetic energy of the core trio, who have been making music together for nearly a decade.
- Letter of Apology
- A Professional ft. Felicia Douglass
- New Anxiety ft. Mutual Benefit
- Static ft. V.V. Lightbody
- Surfers Trace ft. Yellow Ostrich
- All Power Must Remain Hidden
- Scam Likely
- Silver Car ft. Katie Von Schleicher
- 5 Train
- Oh Anna ft. Adam Duritz
- Against Numbers ft. Katie Von Schleicher