Label: Merge Records
Since the release of 2006’s If Children, Wye Oak has obviously grown, both musically and lyrically. The opening song from their follow up The Knot, “Milk and Honey,” is a soft and slightly somber tune, setting the tone that the album follows. The duo has managed to once again produce music that is both beautiful and complicated. Sophomore efforts are famous for sometimes falling flat but this one nails it.
“Take It In” may be the best song on this album, starting off in a slow lull before erupting in cymbal crash explosions during the chorus, reminiscent of Lowgold’s “Mercury.” Naked in its slow-jam approach, it explores the impending end of a relationship, with lines like “Do you never ask/ Because I’ll never tell/ We are both the same/ Unwell.” Although this provides insight into what may be the singer’s own personal situation, it’s one that most listeners can relate to, nostalgically. “Talking About Money” sounds like it could have come from the Sundays’ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, having the same screeching guitars and offbeat tempo; it’s the musical equivalent of an overcast summer day.
For Wye Oak’s Andy Stack, this gig is more than just drumming; in addition to writing and arranging the band’s material, he multitasks instrumentally, playing drums with one hand and a keyboard with another. Jenn Wasner’s guitar work is what shoegaze dreams are made of, all drone and drawn-out flourishes and occasionally she’ll tweak a song with slide guitar. The chemistry between the duo is infectious. What sets them apart is a sense of their being almost oblivious to current trends in music today, eschewing contemporary beats for a more off-tempo style. Theirs is a throwback sound not easily recognizable, yet still approachable. Wye Oak sound bigger than its two members should be able to naturally produce, sometimes drawing one in slowly, only to surprise with volume. While Wasner’s voice can come off a bit quiet at times, overall this album is spectacular.
When staring down a sophomore effort from a band that’s debut was so well received, it’s easy to get too judgmental, maybe trying to find something that isn’t there, making it more than it is, or simply not giving credit where it is due. Wye Oak have followed up If Children with an even better showing, showing more depth to their musicality and dropping a gem in our laps. If this is a sign of how good this band can be, then we may be witnessing the growth of an indie monster.
by Josh Vietti