What do pastel colors connote? Softness, femininity, youthful creativity, deliciousness, accommodation. Pastels are easy on the eye: they don’t demand attention, but they get it anyway through sheer charm. Ice creams and cupcake wrappers are often in pastels, as are cosmetics, parasols, and bed sheets made of the airiest, most comfortable cotton. For years, a certain type of indie-pop performer has used pastel colors to signify alignment with the values, and the gentle, quietly rebellious aesthetics that pastels represent – and pastels sure do look proper on Burbank, California singer-songwriter Wren Wilder.
The “Egyptian Cotton” clip is a wonderland of soft, gorgeous color. Wilder’s jackets, hair accessories, and opera-length gloves; her backdrops and bubblegum; the flowers in vases on the marble desk where she sings, her old-school telephone, the bubbles that drop from the ceiling, the animated squiggles and dashes – all of it is in pastel pinks, baby blues, daisy yellows, mint greens, and creamy whites. Wren Wilder is, herself, a pastel personified, sunny and wry, smiling and welcoming, solid and pure, and much tougher than she looks. Finding the right people to spend your time with isn’t easy – what’s more anxiety-inducing than finding your lunch table on the first day of school? – but even harder is finding the strength to leave toxic friendships. Here, Wilder is learning to process that anxiety and handle it in a positive and energetic way; her melody is such an irresistible confection that it hardly matters. She might be done with the person she’s singing to, but when it goes down as smoothly and sweetly as a caress, who could object?
The new single, mixed by Wren herself, builds on the success of First Flight, Wilder’s exquisitely written seven-song debut EP. The set established Wilder as a storyteller in the classic folk tradition with jazz-inspired chord structures in her harmonies – a crystal-clear communicator whose kindness should never be mistaken for weakness. It also showcased her skills as a record-maker, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist. Every xylophone strike, every firmly struck snare hit, every Mellotron chord and Wurlitzer trill, every nuance of her expressive voice is preserved here with remarkable fidelity and attention to detail. All elements are in the right place, with everything chiming in harmony.
The “Egyptian Cotton” clip reveals her to be a deft handler of whimsy, too. Susan O’Brien’s video makes inventive use of fruit, turning a row of sugar wafers into a mock xylophone struck by marshmallow mallets, cherry bells, a pineapple segmented and strummed like a string instrument and an egg shaker that’s an actual egg. So clever are these substitutions that it’ll take you a second or two before you realize you’re not looking at the real thing. As a visual metaphor for the tastiness of the track – and the tartness that Wren Wilder’s sweetness conceals – it’s hard to do better.