Wil Wagner - Laika [EP] (Cover Artwork)

Wil Wagner

Laika [EP] (2013)

Poison City Records

A lot of you may have heard Wil Wagner without realising it, as Wil fronts the superb Smith Street Band out of Melbourne, Australia and could be seen in the USA last year touring down to Fest 11. With two critically acclaimed LPs under their belt, Wil has taken a step back to his roots as an acoustic singer/songwriter to offer up this 8-track EP of heartbreaking songs that should resonate with even the stoniest of hearts.

Throughout the eight tracks delivered in his unmistakable, endearing accent Wil takes us on a touching, sincere journey that will be so familiar to so many of his audience, and it's hard to not be affected by it all. The opening riffs and upbeat melody to "Eviction Notices" start things off in great fashion with the first line "Sometimes I worry I'm being outgrown by my friends / 'cause I still love drinking and I still love sleeping in..." The open and honest aspect of Wil's lyrics have long been a huge appeal, from the first Smith Street Band recordings right up until now, and this EP continues in the fine tradition of being inspired and defiant in the face of the often constant shitstorm that modern living brings upon us. But there is still something so genuinely unique about the songs he sings, something that bleeds through and makes me completely understand that these songs are a lot of what is keeping this young man going.

One track that took me by complete surprise and affected me a lot was "Laika" written from the perspective of Laika AKA Little Curly, who was the first dog sent into space, pretty much to die, so that Soviet scientists could explore the possibility of manned space travel. Having and loving two dogs of my own, it's the little observations that make this so heartbreaking - "They forgot to walk me this morning / they were too busy changing the world" and "They fed me my last meal / was the same as my first." It completely broke me, but I see this as a total triumph and just what I look for in a songwriter, I guess I just didn`t quite expect it from Wil. Standout tracks can be found all through this release, closing with another favourite in "Song About Why I Suck," which is a genuine look in the mirror-type affair where Wil openly admits to being a shit sometimes before promising to do better. It's that kind of simplistic honesty that makes these songs so appealing and believable.

Musically, this is as bare-bones as it gets, with acoustic guitar, very light percussion and some harmonica, so the songs have to be carried by the content and they more than are. This is a fantastic little release, one that I have gotten so much out of in a short space of time. I would urge you to pick this up; it's as raw and honest as you would like, it will affect you, Hell it may even inspire you. It should be heard and shared with friends over drinks. We all could do a lot worse than open up like this once in a while. Brilliant stuff.