Over three albums, Wild Beasts have rather quickly established themselves as the UK's preeminent band. A Mercury Prize nomination for 2009's Two Dancers opened a door, and there was hardly a better album than the magnificent Smother in 2011. On Present Tense, Wild Beasts sought to push things forward by enlisting Lexxx (Björk, Arcade Fire) and Brian Eno's protégé Leo Abrahams.
Wild Beasts have a remarkable ear for modern music. Present Tense integrates electronics more than previous efforts, achieving textures that are honeyed and smooth, warm and ominous. Originally, the band's foundation was guitars — they're still in the mix, most notably on standout "Sweet Spot," and shimmering halfway through both the pulsating thrust of "Mecca" and the languid "A Dog's Life" — but for the most part, they've been demoted to accentuate the dominant synths, a modification that enriches the disparate yet harmonious dual vocals of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming.
With Abrahams on board, an Eno influence is palpable on the propulsive, politically-minded lead single "Wanderlust," but they push the electronics full tilt on the cascading recoils of "Daughters," on which Fleming details an ugly world where the children are "sharpening their blades." On "A Simple Beautiful Truth," Thorpe argues, "There's a beauty out there, you just gotta know where." He's probably too modest to just come out and say that Present Tense is where beauty lies, but he should; this fourth Wild Beasts album is a stunner. (Domino)