Wye Oak – Shriek


Rating: ★★★½ ·

In 2011 we welcomed Wye Oak’s stunning third full length release, Civilian, which was a record of huge growth and refinement for Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. After such a great album, it’s often hard to imagine where a band will travel next, especially one so small as this duo. This forth time around, the two have gone electronic, ditching the guitars from before and replacing them with atmospheric and electronic sounds. It is an interesting choice, especially after the success of their last release and one that comes with its rewards and drawbacks.

They open slowly this time around with “Before,” and immediately the new style is audible; a synthetic soundscape fills your ears as this duo transport you to a space of tranquility and effortless sound. The percussion is distant, with a faded, subtle quality that offers a dreamy kind of mood to the tune. Of course you have Wasner’s indistinguishable vocals that confess the opening and closing line of the song: “This morning/ I woke up on the floor/ thinking I’d never dreamed before.” The mood of the album is elucidated in that brief lyric; the whole thing feels a bit like melancholic and unpinned nostalgia expressed via delicate sound.

I was quite impressed with the first half of the album; while the sound is not overwhelmingly complex or drastic, the songs they’ve crafted are a solid step into the electronic side of things. Title track, “Shriek,” picks the tempo up a little while maintaining that dream-upon-waking atmosphere. Lead single and my personal favorite track, “Glory,” will have you dancing along to the beat while the vocals craft a bit of drama to latch onto, propelling the song from just being a groovy number.

While there are still some pretty good tracks on Shriek that beg for repeated listening, the sweeping majesty that was introduced on the past album isn’t really matched here. I find myself missing the clean guitar and Wasner’s crisp and elegant vocals that Wye Oak did so well the last time around. After the mid point of the album there is certainly a drop off in the level of intrigue in the tracks and the minimalist sound becomes a bit bleak. That being said, I appreciate the last song, “Logic of Color, ” as the electronic elements take a backseat to the vocals and round out the album with a track reminiscent of those encountered earlier on the album.

Shriek takes Wye Oak down a different path than we’ve seen them go before, and it is enticing for the most part, but I wish a few of the tracks went a little further down this trail and out of the box.

Show Preview: Dirty Projectors @ Emos (8/2)

Date Thursday, August 2nd
Location Emos
Doors 900 pm
Tickets $20 from C3

I’m sure this show probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, as it’s one of the hottest tickets around, but we thought we’d give you a friendly reminder about one of the big shows coming into town on Thursday.  If you’ve recovered from Divine Fits at Beerland, you should definitely check out Dirty Projectors, the indie art-pop act who’ve been making waves pretty much since their inception.  They come into town fresh off the recent release of Swing Lo Magellan, their latest record. And as if that wasn’t enough, you can also, and should, catch the marvelous opening duo, Wye Oak.  It’s been awhile since Civilian came out, but just hearing those songs live brings everything back to life.  We’ll definitely see you there folks!


Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

Wye Oak – Civilian

Rating: ★★★★½

It seems like Merge Records can do no wrong as of recent, with stellar releases this year from names like Destroyer, Telekinesis and Apex Manor. So it is not a big surprise that this record is remarkable, well produced and enticing. Wye Oak has indubitably grown a great deal since their last release, and continue to amaze with how fulfilling their sound is for just a two member band.

Civilian is typical in that it has its immediate standouts, but unique in that after repeated listens, those that didn’t stand out before begin to emerge from the background, becoming new favorites. The opening track, “Two Small Deaths,” is one that grabs your attention upon the first listen. A bit of indiscernible chatter opens the song, giving that feeling of the moment before a show is about to start. It puts a bit of anxious-excitement about what is going to come after the chatter falls away, and Wye Oak certainly do not disappoint. Some simple feedback eases you in, and then the elegant and buttery vocals of Jenn Wasner hit you over the head, commanding your attention.  The track ebbs and flows between the swell of folk sound from the beautiful vocals and the shoe gaze guitars.

While the start to this album is certainly calm in it’s nature, it is by no means a template for the rest of the songs. On numbers like “Plains,” there are drastic build-ups to the powerful, vocal and instrumental, crescendos. It is here, along with the rest of the album, where the rich and strong vocals of Wasner are comparable to that of Victoria Legrand from Beach House. It’s so easy to get lost in the delicate, yet hurricane force strength of the vocals, but it’s not a feeling of misdirection. Instead, it’s the wonderful feeling of having nowhere to be, and getting lost leads you to something that you never would have found otherwise.

On the title track, “Civilian,” the song builds upon itself, layering the crispness of folk and the grit of the guitar. It grows and grows, and then hell breaks loose; all tension that has been built is suddenly released in a cathartic swell of squalling feedback. Elements of brilliance such as this are found all over Civilian, both in the attention grabbers and the slow burners. The prevalence of control and detail that Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner bring to their sound allows for them to push their boundaries, all while staying calculated. Sound like this merits multiple listens, and careful listens at that, or else you might miss a savory indie rock treat in this album.


Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]

New Music from Wye Oak

Having been a long time fan of Wye Oak, of course I was looking forward to this track, and any ensuing goodness they had to offer up.  But, when the song appeared on TheGum I had no idea just how good it was going to be.  Jenn’s voice sounds phenomenal here, and part of me has this tingling feeling I got when I first heard “Zebra” by Beach House last year.  If that’s any indicator, then Civilian, the new album out on March 8th from Merge is going to be one incredible animal.  Just listen to that squalling feedback near the end! It’s like steamy sex in the woods, then Sonic Youth reckless abandon. Yes, I realize that might be a bit redundant, but go with it.


Download: Wye Oak – Civilian [MP3]