Concert preview: Wild Belle makes heartache sound lovely on Isles

  • Jennifer Tzar photo
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From the May 8, 2014 edition

Chicago’s Wild Belle, anchored by sister-brother duo Natalie and Elliot Bergman (she sings and he functions as a jack-of-all-trades, playing everything from keyboards to saxophone), makes heartache sound lovely on its 2012 major label debut, Isles (Columbia).

The musical backdrop is generally warm, incorporating head-nodding reggae rhythms, trip-hop spaciousness and a wealth of instruments culled from across the globe (the kalimba, an African thumb piano, features prominently), and most of these songs would double as the ideal soundtrack to an early summer barbecue. Natalie’s words, however, tend to project a sense of vulnerability, sharing more in common with the he-done-me-wrong tunes crooned by ’60s girl groups. “I lose sleep,” she sings on one tune. “And I weep/Yes I weep/Caught your lips upon her body.”

Not that the singer spends the entire album licking her wounds. On “Backslider,” for one, these resentments harden into something tougher (“I would rather die, than live with you in this life,” she sings), and she strides forward into a future that, at least momentarily, appears almost as sunny as the musical backdrop that swishes around her like gentle island waves.

Caught a Ghost opens the show.