★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Compared to the theatricality of their debut, Limbo, Panto, and the smooth dance-rock sensibility of its follow-ups, Two Dancers and Smother, U.K.-based synth-pop-R&B balladeers Wild Beasts seem to have drawn their focus inward rather than out. Relying on the constant back and forth of Hayden Thorpe’s fragile crooning and Tom Fleming’s deep, primal utterings, their fourth album, Present Tense, is an escapade in finding happiness through trial and error. With an increasing reliance on synthesizers and pointed lo-fi sighs, this album rings a note in its passion to think with the heart and not the brain. Whether it’s the desire to travel endlessly (“Wanderlust”), to feel (“Mecca”) or simply to be understood (“Pregnant Pause”), Present Tense runs the gamut of unfulfilled yearnings, but comes to a beautiful and resolute closure through self-actualization. “A palace, it’s our palace,” Thorpe says – a proper denouement clad in the harps and synths of daydreams.