Virginia Wing's evolution between Forward Constant Motion and Ecstatic Arrow is expressed in those albums' titles. The former describes the changes the band underwent after becoming the duo of Alice Merida Richards and Samuel Pillay, and the latter gives those changes a soaring spirit. Maybe it's because Richards and Pillay recorded the album at the home of longtime collaborator Misha Hering, but they sound more present and confident than ever as they give Forward Constant Motion's stark electropop experiments more hooks and more heart. "Be Released" sets the tone for the rest of Ecstatic Arrow: massive synths and lilting, koto-like tones blur the lines between rustic and futuristic, underscoring Richards' declarations of independence from the past. Indeed, one of the biggest and best changes between this album and Forward Constant Motion is the newfound warmth and personality in Richards' voice. Her often spoken vocals balance poetic musings and down-to-earth confessions perfectly, whether on the surprisingly danceable meditations on male entitlement and self-actualization that make up "Glorious Idea" and "The Second Shift" (one of many songs featuring jubilant saxophone courtesy of XAM Duo's Christopher Duffin) or on the album's more introspective moments. Richards' thoughts about her feelings, and feelings about her thoughts, contain small yet fascinating observations and tensions that make for some of the album's standout tracks. When she sings "Time is a glass that is full/But never filled to the brim" on "Relativity" or "I'm always ready/I'm not always willing" on "The Female Genius," Virginia Wing's long-held comparisons to Broadcast feel truer than ever, evoking the exquisite ways Trish Keenan expressed the most nuanced moods and states of being. Richards' contemplation of her emotions takes away none of their impact: her musings on real life's shortcomings in the face of ideals on "Eight Hours Don't Make a Day" are as relatable as they are endearing, while the hope that radiates from "A Sister" and "Pale Burnt Lake" is almost palpable. Equally soothing and exciting, heartfelt and innovative, Ecstatic Arrow is Virginia Wing's finest work yet.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares