Album covers are an underrated aspect of a new album release. But a lot can be told by looking at the album art. The mood. The direction lyrics and songs will take. Album art can even tell the listener about the artist’s head-space while recording the record. There’s no better example of an artist who upholds that standard than Kip Moore. Wild Ones features Moore in pop art color holding a solitary fist in the air- a hint at the moodiness and rowdiness to come. Slowheart finds Kip sitting at a Central American beach bar staring off into the distance, observing the action taking place around him; indeed, the album is centered around Kip’s observations of the things he’s seen on his travels around the world and his place within the confines of his profession.
Now we get to Kip’s newest release Wild World. The cover of Wild World is dark and understated. Kip, with slick-backed hair and no hat, is sitting over a piano with a nostalgic look on his face. Wild World is thus. It finds Kip taking a much gentler approach. Compared to Slowheart, Wild World is incredibly subdued. Compared to Wild Ones? Well, the listener can clearly hear the growth and maturation in the five years since. Much like an Eric Church or Bruce Springsteen, each album Kip releases represents a stage in his life. The best artists grow with their music and allow the fans to get a glimpse of an artist’s mindset each album cycle.
As I said on Twitter, Kip Moore is artist that requires a deep connection to truly *get.* If someone doesn’t understand, he or she just won’t get it. He knows his fanbase is a direct reflection of his own life’s journey; Kip writes and records with that in mind.
About halfway through my first listen of Wild World, I found myself really missing the rowdier moments of Kip’s past records. Especially with Kip giving the listener a taste of loud with the rollicking “Red White Blue Jean American Dream” and the carefree single “She’s Mine.” And yet I quickly realized too many of those louder moments would really fail to fit in with the quiet nature of the record Kip was aiming for during the recording process. A true artist usually knows better than his or her fans what they need at certain times without screwing them.
Today’s world (even with setting COVID-19 aside) is one of craziness, at times fear and hate, and a lack of compassion and understanding. And with so many artists taking an extreme approach with their music today (on one side we’ve got the artists who see the state of the world as a reason to party non-stop; on the other are the artists who paint such a picture of doom and gloom and helplessness that it seems like there’s no light left), it’s refreshing to find an artist able to navigate the chaotic waters of 2020 with nuance.
Wild World finds Kip finding solace in loved ones (“Grow On You,” “More Than Enough,” and the title-track) without resorting to typical platitudes. The beauty of a Kip Moore song is his ability to get across his own unique views on things as common as lost love, family, and, yes, life itself in a relaxed and subdued manner. He doesn’t operate and think like most people in today’s world (he’ll be the first to admit it), but he still holds dear the things we all do.
“I never thought I was the sentimental kind/Guess I’m the sentimental kind,” Kip admits in “Sweet Virginia.” His journey has taken him across continents, to the top of mountains, and to the lowest valleys, but Kip seems like he’s finally able to take a breath and look back at everything he’s given to both himself and his fans.
One of the standout tracks for me is “South.” I found myself imagining it as the prequel to “Girl of the Summer” off Wild Ones. While “Girl of the Summer” looks back fondly on a specific memory of a summer long ago, “South” finds Kip in the moment, as the summer in a Northern beach town comes to an abrupt end. The chorus is vintage Kip with moody, poignant lyrics and a heavy bass line, and the outro jam will make for an awesome live performance.
Without a doubt, however, the song of the album (and potentially one of the best songs of the year) is “Payin’ Hard.” The attitude is similar to “Guitar Man.” Kip wrote the song with his father (who passed of cancer) in mind. Life on the road takes a toll, and “Payin’ Hard” finds Kip thinking about the sacrifices he’s made and the moments he’s missed while hauling his guitar from town to town. But in classic Kip fashion, he sings “I’ll live with that/I’ll sleep with that/Make peace, and die with that…” He owns his place in the world as a man, son, and artist.
I did want to mention one other song in particular- the opening track “Janie Blu.” Within a few strums of the guitar, all I could think of were The Black Crowes and their classic “She Talks to Angels.” Such a direct, cool influence here. The steady drum that kicks in adds to the urgency of the song. Kip sounds heartbroken as he tries to love a woman who can’t return the love because of circumstances beyond her control. Kip knows he can’t keep holding on to the dream but doesn’t quite know how to let go. “Janie Blu” will, in my opinion, go down as an essential addition to Kip’s deep cuts discrography.
Wild World will not go down as an album that casual fans flock to. Many of the songs found on the record are made for his long-time fans and those who stuck with Kip along the journey. There’s a lot of buried treasure and a few songs that will make a great addition to Kip’s live show. There even may be some critics who write the album off due to not understanding what it means to be a fan of Kip Moore. Yet Wild World is an excellent addition to Kip’s career. It’s timely. It’s urgent without being chaotic. Most importantly, it’s Kip finally allowing himself to grow a bit sentimental. And allowing his fans to feel the same.