The Wildlife

Sweet Plastic

Mano Dio Gracias and his Wildlife cohorts are probably pretentious. But that didn’t stop them from crafting some of the most original melodies of 2005 for this year-end release. Preprogrammed beats and warping vocal effects blend seamlessly with pianos and string sections, making it difficult to tell what’s real and what’s been conjured on some sort of CPU workstation. Leading the pack is Dio Gracias’ lilting voice, which has a confidence that betrays his young appearance. The only thing he’s probably surer of is his meticulous songwriting, which flows with unbridled abandon throughout the 12 tunes. Pretentious or not, it takes some nuts to make the hippie-dippy, way-out-there, Radiohead-Beatles-gumbo-type choices the Wildlife does, but the band pulls it off quite admirably.