The trappings of a two-piece rock outfit are many, from the interpersonal dynamic to the smaller stable of voices from which to cull a fuller sound. Thankfully, Maryland’s Wye Oak found a way to tiptoe around them all as they pass the three-album mark. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack wrote the bulk of their slyly infectious new album Shriek on opposite coasts as they both added new instruments to their wheelhouse. Wasner shifted to composing on bass while Stack delved into synthesizers and their physical distance has lent to their music a greater sense of space.
If their live shows that erupted in the wake of 2011’s excellent Civilian reveled in garage rock sturm und drang, Shriek finds them exploring all new things uncovered in the wake. Unchained from the melodic constraints of full guitar chords Warner weaves her lithe voice around sinewy bass lines in the chilly funk of “Glory.” Stack’s own drumming remains heavy but languid throughout, a sturdy tonic on which to float his new array of synth blips and slides. “This morning I woke up on the floor/thinking I have never dreamed before,” Wasner sings in the first bars of album opener “Before” as Stack’s synths delicately sprinkle down like stray raindrops from a sun shower. While it certainly begs the question from which nightmares Wye Oak has drawn so much of its past, the music world should be happy the duo has woken up to a broader sound palette and should hope they keep dreaming up new ones.
– Luke Dennis