In the opening track of Wye Oak’s latest album, Shriek, singer Jenn Wasner finds herself waking up disoriented on a floor as she uses the celestial synths to search for her lost memories. “Before” is the foreground for the moments that seamlessly follow, introducing an album that is a search for a peace of mind through sonic exploration and personal vindication.
Throughout Shriek, Wasner and drummer/keyboardist Andy Stack sift their way through syncopated rhythms by trading in distorted guitars for more reflective synthesizers.
In previous works, like 2011’s highly acclaimed Civilian , Wasner’s singing has been pushed up against the angst sometimes felt in the swell of the thunderous guitars. But with Stack’s synths, Wasner’s angelic vocals are crystallized through soft melodies that serve as a gentle subconscious in songs like the title track and “Sick Talk.”
Meanwhile, “Logic of Color” brings Wye Oak as close to pop romanticism as it will get, providing a more relaxing close to an emotionally demanding album.
However, Wye Oak’s fiery changes in attitude still lurk under Shriek’s surface. Civilian showed it through sporadic shifts in volume that gave the band an enduring grunge flair. Echoes of Civilian are still present in Shriek with “Glory” and its quick stab of a guitar solo, along with “The Tower,” a menacing contagion where Wasner warns listeners to expect the unexpected.
As they delve into the many moods of Shriek, listeners are given the sketch of a child on the album’s cover, making a goofy and slightly disturbing face. Shriek is a playground of sounds and sensations, where characters like the cover’s mascot may be curiously exploring. Wasner and Stack know where the fence lies around this playground, they know their limits. Yet they are still eager to explore the sonic spaces laid out before them through the duo’s evolving style.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.