As soon as the record begins, you become aware that the band is embracing a different sound, one that mostly jettisons Wasner's guitar work in favor of synth and keyboard loops.
Artist: Wye Oak
Label: Merge Records
Length: 10 tracks
I'm turning 40 this year and one of the things I've noticed recently is that much of today's indie rock bands are strongly influenced by the stuff I was listening to 15, even 20 years ago. The end result of that is that I give the new band a nod for having good taste, but show no real interest in adding their music to my collection. As my age increases, so does my music snobbery, and it takes a band with a truly unique sound and/or message for me to really sit up and pay attention. Wye Oak did just that back in 2011 with the amazing Civilian, and I've been eagerly awaiting the follow-up effort since. Now we have Shriek, and it's a curious record as bandmates Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack attempt to stretch themselves musically in all sorts of directions.
As soon as the record begins, you become aware that the band is embracing a different sound, one that mostly jettisons Wasner's guitar work in favor of synth and keyboard loops. It's a bold move considering how established the band was in their previous sound, and it lands them in the same territory of 80's artists like Tears for Fears and Kate Bush with a little Siouxsie and the Banshees thrown in for good measure. The influences are so strong in some cases that when the intro of "Despicable Animal" began, I thought I was listening to a cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."
I truly respect any band that tries something new and different from what they've done, but as I was listening to Shriek, there was something about it that didn't sit right with me. It took a few listens for me to finally put my finger on it, but once I started focusing on individual portions of each song, it hit me: the music itself is extremely repetitive. In fact , if this were an instrumental record, it would be really boring. Fortunately, Wasner's fine vocal work manages to elevate the songs to the point where they become interesting.
I really wanted to love this record the same way I love Wye Oak's previous efforts, but I found far too many flaws to place it in the same regard. That's not to say it's a bad record. It's certainly worth a listen, but I'm secretly hoping that with the next record, the band returns to its former style, which it does so well.