Just two years after Night Beds' intimate indie folk debut, the somewhat descriptively titled Country Sleep, Winston Yellen takes an unexpectedly sharp turn in style and production on his sophomore album, Ivywild. With a couple dozen guest musicians and a big assist from his brother Abe Yellen in the studio, it's not outrageous to reference the previous year's LP1 by FKA Twigs in terms of far-reaching, exploratory production resulting in an artful and haunting alt-R&B/quasi-indie electronic record. Yellen's earthy falsetto keeps a toe in the Bon Iver realm here, as do a few of the tunes (such as the decidedly indie rock "Corner"), but the project as a whole is a liberal and audacious shift. The eerie, sweeping, orchestral alternative R&B opener "Finished" -- with electronic noise, beach waves, guest vocals, and starts and stops -- shocks the familiar listener into readjusting expectations. Above all a breakup opus at 16 tracks with only one song shorter than three minutes in length, Yellen emits broken-heartedness throughout, even occasionally straining his voice on the poppy "Me Liquor and God" and repeatedly pleading "Leave me the way you found me" on "Lay Your Hands." Stylistically, he gets ambient on "Seratonin," channels Michael Jackson at moments on "Tide Teeth," goes trip-hop on "On High:," and for the album's most contemporary of R&B, "Sway(ve)" offers Auto-Tune- and kick drum-heavy late-night dance pining. Acknowledging that Night Beds' strict chamber-folk fans are bound to be disappointed if not horrified, taken on its own Ivywild is sonically rich, adventurous, envelopingly wistful, and undeniably stunning.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson