Mar 21, 2011 Issue #35 - Winter 2011 - Death Cab for Cutie
Wye Oak return with a third full-length, and a much established thing, with a few well-received records under their belt. The duo, if you didn't know, make bombastic but beautiful indie rock, with just a hint of Americana. Maybe it's modern folklore music, carrying on the guitar traditions of the now-distant '90s with much aplomb. One might also just mention Yo La Tengo and call it a day. Many do.
At the forefront, once again, are guitarist/vocalist Jenn Wasner's subdued, marble-mouthed vocal lines. She's brilliant at phrasing, draping her lilting melodies over the arrangements just so; emotionally intoxicating without being cloying. She and bandmate/boyfriend Andy Stack lay down perfect skeletons beneath, droning and hypnotic, with bursts of noise and effects, everything possibly in need of repair.
After self-producing a few, the band enlisted John Congleton for this recording. He takes a warts and all approach, but definitely widens and boosts the soundscape, leaving the band to concentrate on songs. And damn, there are some songs. "Two Small Deaths" will break your heart, whether or not you catch any lyrics. "Holy Holy" marches along like an old Stereolab tune, with so much tension it has to explode in dissonance. The title track fires up the folk inclinations, and other songs submit entirely to the pathos, slow burners that seem too honest not to be textbook catharsis. If Wasner has some demons to exorcise, let's selfishly hope she never quite gets at 'em.
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10