Album Review: Wye Oak – Shriek

It doesn’t take a seasoned ear to recognize something very unique about Wye Oak’s new album, Shriek, released on April 29th by Merge Records. The duo from Baltimore, consisting of Jenn Wasner on bass and Andy Stack on keyboard and drums, incorporates many eclectic electronic sounds, but does not make use of guitar for a single second in the entire album. Shriek is their fourth album that plays heavily with different emotions, unique rhythm, and vigorous sounds.
Wasner is more famous for her guitar-playing, but her performance on bass is quite impressive for just picking it up recently. On “Glory,” her bass functions both for rhythm and harmony as a guitar might, but with less conventional licks you’d expect in between vocals. There are subtle, but interesting movements by the bass part while she is singing. Pauses are used effectively for emphasis on lyrics, which describe a relationship in turmoil, crumbling away slowly. There is an instrumental passage after the second chorus which is filled with a new clamor of electric sounds over constant beating which works for this song.
Andy Stack makes keyboard to double work as an instrument and voice. In “Schools of Eyes,” the way the synth just hovers as harmony seems to act like a choral hum backing up Wasner on vocals. Polyrhythm creates more and more tension which leads up to a dramatic pause. I cannot wait to see him live to see him play the drums and keyboard simultaneously.
“I Know the Law” is most like a ballad out of all the songs on the album. Wasner’s voice floats beautifully with the synth over a syncopated, soft drum beat. The buildup with bass suddenly comes to an end that wakes up the listener from the ethereal dream. The way that Wye Oak can put you in a state of mind, build up on it, and then suddenly rip that away from you is like a reminder that not all things last and it really plays a big part in the album’s mindset.
With their recent appearance at Coachella, Wye Oak is picking up heat and blazing their way over to Philly as they promote their album. They are headlining at Union Transfer on May 5th with Canadian band Braids opening up for them. As always, Union Transfer is accessible via Septa’s Broad Street Line, the 43, and 23 buses.


Image from Merge Records

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