As painful as it is to lose someone, within the devastation of grief something sacred is found. Anika Pyle, formerly of Chumped and katie ellen, began working on her debut solo album Wild River after the death of her father, honouring his memory with a stunning collection of songs and spoken word poetry.
The album begins with old recordings of her grandmother’s voice, imparting wisdom from another time. Tracing your lineage becomes a way to find out who you are from who made you.
So when she sings I wanted to be a wild river / but I’m still a country creek this is the beginning of a journey towards making peace with her identity, even if life isn’t what she hoped or dreamed of. Maybe the album offers a musical sense of self acceptance too, with the softer and more downbeat tone feeling like a natural new home for her personal lyrics in comparison to the pop punk of her past.
This introspective mood leads to darker, brooding sounds on Emerald City. She asks the Earth for answers as to why her life has turned out this way, why every yellow brick road seems to lead to nowhere. The answer, of course, is just blowing in the wind.
On Failure II she begins to find strength from understanding her mistakes, these spoken word interludes become signposts towards the light. Haiku for Everything You Loved and Missed is repeated like a mantra, a reminder that things are always changing, we have to work on accepting the new reality.
The second half of the album begins with a spoken word poem called The Mexican Restaurant Where I Last Saw My Father, a heartbreaking account of her trying to remember those last living memories. Through the black cloud of grief, she finds significance in the mundane moments they shared together. These emotions bloom into Orange Flowers – a gut wrenchingly beautiful tribute to her father, honouring his love with grace and gratitude.
From here the album begins to look outwards, seeking happiness in Windy City and finding the miracle in everyday nature on Monarch Butterflies and City Butterfly. By the end of the album she concludes, ‘everyone is a failer / no one is a failure.’ Life begins again, every day, if we’re lucky enough to wake up in the world.
Wild River is an immersive experience, a musical and poetic journey over the uncertain and traumatic rapids of life towards a place of peace and contentment. As a listener it’s a privilege to be invited to take the voyage with her.
Interview with Secret Meeting blog: http://www.secretmeeting.co.uk/anikapyle
Interview on Better Yet podcast: http://www.betteryetpod.com/episodes/2021/2/11/anika-pyle