Following their more rustic 2010 debut, the Wild Reeds expanded to a five-piece and adopted a vibrant, melodic blend of folk-rock and indie pop that still incorporated the founding members' rich harmonies. The band's third album since that reinvention, Cheers reflects a decision to give core songwriter/multi-instrumentalists Mackenzie Howe, Kinsey Lee, and Sharon Silva free reign to develop songs as each saw fit instead of finding a stylistic middle ground. The resulting differences are subtle, as the members clearly already had similar visions for the band. However, diversions into churning punk-pop inspirations (Lee's "P.S. Nevermind") and warped, mid-century prom slow dances (Silva's "Cheers") were not only allowed but encouraged. The album opens with the fuzzy guitar riffs and skittering percussion of "Moving Target," the first in a string of infectious, festival stage-friendly tracks primarily about overcoming relationship and emotional obstacles. When the track list occasionally slows and quiets down, it's for songs like "Don't Pretend" and "Play It Safe," which still play to the back row, if more tenderly. It also continues to project the group's own version of a Wall of Sound, incorporating instruments like keyboards, electric guitars, mallet percussion, and manipulated drum tones, even on ballads. Along the lines of groups like Oh Pep! and Lucius, the vocal performances are strong and engaging throughout, regardless of who takes the lead, and their harmonies are present on every track. They spotlight those vocal harmonies on songs including the gently twangy "Run and Hide." Speaking of Lucius, the album was co-produced and mixed by member Dan Molad, who has helped fashion bold soundscapes for bands like Pavo Pavo and his solo project CHIMNEY in addition to Lucius. When the album ends with a wistful, spare, midtempo waltz that develops into a wailing rock song ("Please keep cheering for me"), it seems fitting for an album that celebrates mettle.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson