by Paddy Kinsella
Whether it’s the result of repeated lockdowns, there’s no question that collaboration has been the fashion of the season in alternative music. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve had releases that bring together the likes of Alice Boman and Perfume Genius, The National and Bon Iver, and underground alternative heroes, Friendship and Tenci. And Wild Pink are the latest to join the party, drafting in Julien Baker to feature on their new single, Hold My Hand.
It precedes an album that’s packed with collaborations – J Mascis, Ryley Walker, Yasmin Williams and Samantha Crain all appear. Perhaps the most pertinent contribution, though, comes in the form of co-producer, Peter Silberman of The Antlers. Silberman, of course, is best known for his band, The Antler’s album Hospice – a record that tells the story of a relationship between a hospice worker and a female patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. John Ross, the mastermind behind Wild Pink, is currently in the surveillance phase of recovery after being diagnosed with cancer while in the writing process for his band’s upcoming full-length.
The tale told on Hold My Hand is remarkably similar to that of Hospice – it sees Ross relay how a member of the surgical team held his hand while he underwent his first surgery. Wild Pink have already earned their stripes as masters of splendour, but there’s something particularly Antlers-esque in the illuminating beauty that sparkles in high definition on Hold My Hand. Organic and enduring, the song is as good of tribute as any to the empathic gentleness of the moment that inspired it. Baker and Ross mirror the kind action of the surgical worker; their voices represent a source of mutual support for one another throughout. Baker sings, ‘I love you so much,’ with such profundity it’s as if she’s trying to penetrate the comatose state of her sparring partner. If I had to beam a song into space as an exemplar of our creativity on earth, there would be few better contenders than this – so beautifully do Baker’s and Ross’ voices coalesce.
When a song features a more established act than its originator, cynics will question whether that appearance was motivated by the possible exposure to a larger audience. The coming together can often feel like a forced clasp – here, however, it is a tender hold of familiar hands. Indeed, it’s the strongest of all of 2022’s collaborations to date, and a touching glimpse into what promises to be one of the most affecting albums in a long time, at least, since a certain Peter Silberman broke hearts in 2009.
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