Wye Oak are an “indie” band, currently housed on time-honored Chapel Hill label Merge (which has bequeathed us Neutral Milk Hotel and Spoon albums over the years, to name a couple). The way I first discovered them was probably around 2012 or so, browsing for CD’s at my local library. So already, you might say, they’re going against the grain of current trend: popularized through CD’s, and trenchant in this grating realm of “indie” which seems to frustratingly shirk the dominant paradigm of being a total dipsh**.
Wye Oak are a female-led indie rock duo from Baltimore just like Beach House and Lower Dens. Lower Dens made one of my favorite albums of the decade with Nootropics (as did Beach House with Teen Dream, I guess). Lower Dens’ last album was called Escape from Evil, directly following Nootropics, and since then, 2015, they’ve yet to issue a new LP. One time I met this Orioles fan (which sadly for multiple reasons happens to be my favorite team too) who asked for an “anal blow job” from the female bartender at the bar I was sitting at. I’ll let you do the math.
K The Louder I Call, the Faster it Runs is astonishing on multiple levels, per the textural, stylish “intro” (since when are “intro”’s an indie rock thingie) and then for its ability to with “The Instrument,” likely a metaphoric title, overcome my initial hatred per feeling that they were attempting a radio hit with all this R&B synthy rhythm action and actually lay down some organic drums (they credit both a live drummer and a band member in charge of “programming” on the album’s Wikipedia page), Jann Wesner’s vocals emanating forth as human and real (“Suffering / Oh I’ve been suffering / Feeling heat and then the lack of it / But not so much what the difference is”). Stylistically, The Louder I Call, the Faster it Runs marks possibly a greater left turn than any band ever pulled off in the progression of one album, managing to even through the jungl-y miasma of synth, guitar treatment and drum texture, still sound darker than the endearing but ultimately self-defeating cafe charm of 2016’s pocket-psych-rock outing Tween. “Lifer,” though threatening at times to dissolve into the faux-anthemic ennui hinted at on the band’s prior album, proves that Wye Oak in 2018 are nothing if not dynamic, juxtaposing a personal, singer-songwriter type verse and chorus with this big, explosive and distorted guitar solo, residing somewhere in the Jeff Tweedy/Eric Clapton area. You can tell this band has been practicing in the past couple years. Andy Stack is credited with guitar on Wikipedia and to be honest was probably licking his chops for a chance to really show off his skill on this album, since up until now Jann Wesner’s vocals had definitely owned the forefront, which typically embody something resembling the Cyndi Lauper/Jana Hunter territory (thinking sad Cyndi Lauper, like “Time after Time” et. al.) The band display funk on standout “Say Hello,” which follows an interlude track, Wesner showing herself to be a virtuosic, born frontwoman with some seemingly persona-shifting falsetto and fake-British-accent crooning, a trick she definitely pulls off better than Jack White, mind you.