Archer Prewitt's artistic twitches have always been extraordinarily well tended-to: the singer/multi-instrumentalist presently slings guitar for Chicago indie veterans the Sea and Cake, and supplies comics and illustrations (the cover art for Wilderness is a Prewitt original) for a variety of national publications. Still, Prewitt's prolific solo career as a singer/songwriter is far too hefty to be written off as distracted noodling: Wilderness, Prewitt's fourth solo album, is an impeccably arranged collection of songs that, despite their meandering structures and splintering melodies, hold together with remarkable grace.
More consistent and internally coherent than its predecessors, Wilderness sees Prewitt twirling away from sappy, MOR yawning — instead, opener "Way of the Sun," anchored by Prewitt's solid-but-breathy vocals, evokes the dim mysticism of bedroom saint Nick Drake, whom Prewitt has cited as an influence. Much like Drake, Prewitt is a determinedly modest lyricist, skittishly side-stepping rote, singer/songwriter confessionalism for detailed (but still emotionally vague) laments. Also like Drake, Prewitt is happy to employ a mess of other, considerably less-insular sounds, including trumpet, pedal steel, mellotron, organ, strings, punctuated bits of "Ave Maria," handclaps and unexpectedly raucous percussion. Wilderness (which is lovingly dedicated to Prewitt's late father) thoughtfully explores notions of love, death and loss without resorting to drippy folk clichés or tired instrumentation.