Hay there, Wye Oak. The duo’s denim jackets are emblazoned with the cover of their newest album. Photo via the band.
Jenn Wasner rocks. The guitarist, vocalist, and now bassist of duo Wye Oak has the ability to capture a room with the depths of her voice.
Three years after releasing Civilian, Wye Oak is back this summer, touring for their fifth album, Shriek, which was released in April with Merge Records. On the album, Wasner and bandmate Andy Stack methodically create a familiar, dynamic sound. But these new tracks are both brighter and more directed by the bass than the songs from their guitar-heavy Civilian.
During a show last week at the Doug Fir in Portland, Wasner and Stack did not to adhere themselves to one style, but mesmerized the sold-out crowd with their immense sound and genuinely humble demeanor. The duo set up their own gear, then continuously thanked their supporters and fans during a set that included songs off both of their most recent albums. After the intimate show, the thundering drum-guitar ending of “Civilian,” the encore, would not leave my head.
Wye Oak filled the Doug Fir’s small stage with both instruments and intensity. Photo by Lucy Vernasco.
As an album, Shriek is colorful and layered. While still retaining a sound that is quintessentially Wye Oak, with bursting choruses and flowy vocals, Shriek has a new flavor. Writing the album around the bass inserts a strong pulse underneath Wasner’s lyrics. But they use a synthesizer to keep Shriek playful and personal.
Shriek opens with Wasner’s yearning, warm voice accompanied with repetitive bass and drums in “Before.” The song rings with futuristic snyth sounds and high notes that continue throughout the album. The title song itself is lush, with cascading vocals and background sounds reminiscent of nature. Wasner’s voice continues to shine in “I Know the Law,” a song that echoes with honesty and slow drum beats. “Glory” is the most similar to a track off Civilian, and is darker than other songs on Shriek. Here’s the video:
The switch from bass to guitar on the new album was Wasner’s personal intention, according to she told Spin in March:
“There was all this weird baggage associated with the guitar for me, and I couldn’t get around that. It was a block. I had to sidestep the block in order to be able to make anything. And you know — it wasn’t me trying to make any sort of statement about the guitar, as much as it was, ‘You gotta do what you gotta do to feel inspired, and chase that inspiration to where it takes you.’”
As much as I love the reinvented sound of Shriek, I miss the depths of Civilian with its loud guitar choruses and mysterious instrumentals. Shriek lacks entirely stripped down songs like “Doubt,” featuring Wasner on guitar, melodically confiding to listeners. Shriek is still refreshing and not a misstep. The fresh sound gives me excitement for new Wye Oak to come.
Related Listening: Nine Brand-New Jams for July.
Lucy Vernasco is Bitch’s new media intern.