Wye Oak - Shriek
A moment of awakening heralds the arrival of Shriek. There’s an oscillating synth-line, a growing tide of feedback and then the footstep-like quality of Jenn Wasner’s bassline, which inches its way forwards, growing in confidence with each stride until finally arriving into the above opening line.
It’s a neat intro that encapsulates the kind of dawning realisation Wasner’s experienced since 2011: the need to ditch the “weird baggage” of six strings in urgent pursuit of new inspiration. In doing so Wye Oak have made a sharp change of direction, pulling out the “baby teeth” of Civilian and allowing a synth-pop platform to grow in their place, a platform on which atmosphere is largely valued over aggression and Wasner’s vocals rise to a justified prominence.
For all the apparent boldness though, especially so given the perceived risk of such a move given their proximity to crossover, perhaps the most pressing outcome of Shriek is the lack of impact such a change has had to the band’s song-writing abilities. There’s still their characteristic tautness in the wonky anxiousness of ‘Glory’ and the shrieking rattle and tense percussion of ‘Paradise’ in spades. Undoubtedly though, it’s been furthered and bettered by the patience and dynamism they display on the bright funk of ‘Sick Talk’, and the spaciousness of ‘Before’ which glides over its initial strange reminiscence to ‘Who’s Gonna Drive You Home?’ into a sublime territory all of its own.
Change is both a vital and trepidatious weapon in a band’s arsenal, equally capable of being a source of propulsive revitalisation or a lightning rod for confusion and alienation. Instead of being overwhelmed by their deviating course and falling into accusations of the latter though, Wasner and Stack sound like a group who’ve burst through boundaries of expectations – imposed from within and without – into a plane where their confidence and imagination has not just been reinforced but emboldened.