Few artists ever want to be compared to their previous work—but when your previous album is as ambitious, sprawling and personal as Miranda Lambert’s 2016 double album, The Weight of These Wings, it’s hard to mention her new Wildcard without at least juxtaposing them. On Wildcard, Lambert seems to have found a sturdy middle ground between the brooding, “burn it down” rock ’n’ roll of her early years and the more reflexive journeys of recent albums. The Jay Joyce–produced album strikes a balance between the “attitude as a metaphor” approach with tunes like “Locomotive” and “Way Too Pretty For Prison” and the earnest emotion of songs like “How Dare You Love” and “Dark Bars.” If there’s any clear through line in Lambert’s music, it’s her knack for singing memorable lines that have never been sung before—a feat that gets harder every day. Consider this line in “Pretty Bitchin’”: “I’m pretty from the back / Kinda pretty in the face / I hate to admit it / But it didn’t stop me, did it?” It takes a certain level of confidence to deliver a line like that in country music, and Lambert has confidence in spades. Wildcard is, at its heart, a very good pop rock record. It’s perhaps some of Lambert’s hookiest music yet, thanks in no small part to persistent disco beats and a chorus-first approach. If The Weight of These Wings was like peering in on Miranda Lambert’s diary pages, Wildcard is like going to her block party.
Miranda Lambert: Wildcard
Album Review BY JEREMY RAY BURCHARD