Wye Oak: Shriek (Merge) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Wye Oak



Apr 29, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Wye Oak fans who were on board with Jenn Wasner’s Dungeonesse project from last yearon which she tackled ‘80s and ‘90s R&B and pop tropes with a clear love for the formmay not have realized its prescience. Wasner and Wye Oak bandmate Andy Stack are now relegated to different coasts, and as such, have traded in their soft/loud guitar-centric fare for something more manageable from a distancenamely the sort of electronic-based fare present on Dungeonesse. It’s the same two-piece but with quite different arrangementsWasner reaches largely for the bass instead of the six-string, and Stack layers beds of keyboards over relatively simple electronic beats.

“Before” sets the stage with ‘80s pop aplombnot full pastiche per se, but as the ballad marches along on synth atmospherics and a steady, basic slap-bass pattern, Wasner exploring her breathy register with “This morning/I woke up on the floor/Thinking I’ve never dreamed before,” one would not be out of place mentioning, say, Berlin. By way of Baltimore. (Or maybe Baltimora, one can’t help but type.)

Follow-up “Shriek” is cut from the same cloth, built atop a melancholy two-chord piano phrase, dappled in what appear to be psychedelic bird noises, its chorus a monster hook. Later, “Paradise” could evoke Kate Bush just as much as ‘90s electronic/indie crossover fodder like Moonshake or Laika, who shared shelves with the ‘90s guitar touchstones mentioned in every previous Wye Oak review.

“The Tower” lands somewhere between the Wye Oak of yore and the 2.0 version, plodding along while Wasner performs fuzz-bass runs and some of her textbook wistful vocal melodies. As with her performances on Dungeonesse, it’s compelling having that talent freed of its usual context. There’s no question Wasner could make these songs work as big guitar anthems, but as skeletal, textured electronic tunes they really let the nuance of both her songwriting and her voice shine through. Both were always present, thoughand this outing does still feel very Wye Oak. It’s certainly not Dungeonesse II, despite the superficial similarities. It’s still got that rough-hewn, faltering-gear quality that bubbles up to make the group’s most basic indie rock gems uniquely their own. It’s simply a different iteration of a known quantity. Maybe an implicit or accidental meditation on what it means to be a “band.” But let’s not overthink it, yeah? Enjoy a batch of new songs from some proven songwriters. (www.wyeoakmusic.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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