Wye Oak - Shriek

An album of intriguing musical variety and striking emotional intimacy.

Label: Republic of Music

Rating:

Baltimore duo Wye Oak’s fourth album ‘Shriek’ is the product of circumstances forcing the band to work a little differently. And by being outside their natural comfort zone, the duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner have created an album of intriguing musical variety and striking emotional intimacy.

‘Shriek’ is something of a reinvention for the band. For a start, there are no discernible guitars on the album with Wasner preferring to switch to bass with both members playing a gorgeous tapestry of layered keyboard lines that gives songs like the sashaying, sensual pop of ‘Glory’ a lovely bold and bright quality.

Perhaps the desire to experiment was down to the band members finding themselves apart from each other for the first time. With Stack moving out of Baltimore to the west coast it forced both of them to approach their work in a different way. The influence of Wasner’s side projects Dungeonesse and Flock of Dimes is apparent, too - there’s far more of a focus on groove, atmosphere and texture at work. Songs like ‘The Tower’ offer up wonderful pop melodies, built up using layers of keyboard washes.

Despite sounding markedly different from their previous work at no time does ‘Shriek’ ever sound contrived or forced. In fact, it is arguably their most emotive work. The liberating feeling of abandoning the guitar and any notion of being a rock band has allowed a greater degree of emotional depth in to their music as evidenced on supremely lovely and sultry electronic ballads like album opener ‘Before.’ It’s songs like this and the lilting, gossamer light dream pop of ’I Know The Law’ that really highlight the malleable diversity in Wasner’s voice.

It could be considered a brave move for Wye Oak to eschew almost everything that they were known for. It’s a decision that’s very much paid off. ‘Shriek’ is certainly a considerable statement that opens up endless vistas of possibility for a reinvigorated band.