Wye Oak - Shriek | Album Review | By Volume

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Shriek

Wye Oak

Shriek

Being wrong with excellent results.

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Author: on April 28, 2014
7.9
City Slang

I probably take too much pride in being wrong. I wear that shit like a prize won from the most challenging and asinine of carnival games, taken sweetly from the biggest jackass of a proprietor, you know, the kind of person who had to be cheating you, valiant coin-into-cup-flipper or rotating-duck-shooter. Your money is his! Maybe, though, it’s just refreshing for an otherwise cynical ass to crack a smile at the cost of being delightfully incorrect. With Wye Oak, it wouldn’t be my first time. Previously, I had stated that Jenn Wasner, lead vocalist of both Wye Oak and Dungeonesse, may have found her true calling, so to speak, singing Dungeonesse’s disco-y electropop, and that maybe Wye Oak’s more tempered arrangements didn’t befit her voice as perfectly as Jon Ehrens’ deceptively bassy beats and spacey production.

Oops.

It takes only about twenty seconds of Shriek’s title track to prompt salivation and I’m left wondering why I ever had any doubts. It’s not that Civilian was a poor release; it and the band’s sophomore effort The Knot are both touching, intimate albums filled with delicate folk rock and brooding production touches. Andy Stack, Wye Oak’s percussionist and pianist, really showcased how skilled he is as creating an expansive, engulfing sound from which Wasner can build upon. A lot of their earlier music was reliant on bursts of volume and distortion – think rumbling piano keys and intense drum fills to accentuate Wasner’s dexterous guitar flourishes. Shriek is not a guitar-heavy record, make no mistake, but Wasner may be in her finest form yet, even if the band has moved away from their more traditional rock roots. This all seems secondary though; Stack’s percussion and Wasner’s luscious vocals are the aspects that power this album’s memorability, not its lack of a six-string. The towering synths make songs like “Sick Talk”, “Shriek” and “Logic of Color” such a joy to waste away in. As opposed to clever volume tweaks, delicate acoustic strums or mystifying drones, Shriek has a decidedly pop heart, and is much better for it.

If one were to start backwards with Wye Oak, they might mistake Shriek for a Dungeonesse record. It’s significantly more beat-oriented, at times down right danceable and groovy. Though this migration from their organic roots isn’t a fool’s move, Shriek sounds great at a technical level. It’s clear, but still a little dirty around the ends; the songs all have a distinct sense of space and none of the instrumentation sounds mushed together for the sake of creating false gravitas. In truth, a lot of Shriek is aesthetically similar to the My Neighbor / My Creator EP, though significantly more upbeat. Neighbor though, felt like somewhat of a departure for the band – the first inkling of their desires to experiment with electronic music. Wye Oak always have this underlying synth element to them, but one could easily lump that in with whatever else made them ring true as indie rock. This hasn’t changed so much as it’s shifted, and a band who once could be slotted comfortably by most into the folk-rock category are now certainly an animal of different ilk.

Regardless of how much one might agree with my assertion that Wye Oak are this kind of band or that kind of band, I think what’s most important to take away is just how easily they create these shifting aesthetics, while never feeling like they’re borrowing anything. It gets exponentially more difficult to attach genre descriptors with each album they release, and what’s more important than the fact Wye Oak sound like a woozy, art-folk-meets-dream pop band is that they sound effortless. They make you forget they were once anything different.

Shriek doesn’t require a distinct taste or set of parameters when it comes to who or what you’ll listen to; it feels open to the masses, though never like it’s overcompensating. Wye Oak have come full circle and all their wiry post-rock, tempered folk, and dreamy synthesizers have fused into this enjoyable, compulsively listenable record that isn’t going to wrack your perceptions of pop music, but will certainly be difficult to turn off. What Wye Oak have created with their fifth record is a diverse and inescapable presence that may not make you scream with delight, but will have you locked in from the moment it begins.

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