We know two things about Wise Blood’s Christopher Laufman: He is a Christian, as the Flannery O’Connor-influenced band name is not made in irony. He is also extremely neurotic. While both of these facts play significant roles on his songwriting palette, the latter one is the driving force behind These Wings, Wise Blood’s second EP of abstractionist pop.
At its core, Laufman’s production has much in common with recent trends in indie hip hop. Each track is driven by a heavy beat, but he populates his hooks with samples of everything from flourishing orchestras, call-and-response guitars, a jazz piano, or a punching brass section. While most sample-based music gets trapped in the history of its source material, Laufman teases apart and warps fractions of sounds to be examined in much more granular exposure. Under the microscope, these pieces fall together to create smooth and disarming melodies.
Lyrically, These Wings comes to a head in confronting two conflicting religious observations: Feeling a universal obligation to remain chaste and do right by others (“Darlin’ You’re Sweet,” “Loud Mouths”) while harboring a nagging fear that such blind altruism is tantamount to self-negation (“I’m Losing My Mind,” “Penthouse Suites”). On “The Lion,” Laufman unloads a string of mortal sins like a series of unsettling Polaroids, only to illustrate how tangible life gets fleeced for ambiguous goals.
In this way, These Wings makes us question what we know on two different fronts. The EP bobs and weaves through enchanting arrangements of unexpected gems, while Laufman delivers his lines like a desperate, tortured rapper. Or heck, like a preacher. Because we’ve shrugged off enough people who ask “What Would Jesus Do?” without ever considering the very real possibility that, all things considered, the divine might punch the mortal square in the mouth. Well Laufman, you’ve got my attention; now please say more.