Wye Oak – Shriek (Merge)

Wye Oak – Shriek (Merge)

Wye Oak almost didn’t make it to Shriek. Civilian, their 2011 breakthrough, almost killed the band, mainly because they were on the road non-stop for two years promoting it. Feeling depleted, they had to tear down their sound and start over, resulting in the synth- and groove-dominated Shriek, which sounds like such a different band that, sure, you could probably still say Civilian killed Wye Oak. It was kind of surprising how many people were upset by Wye Oak ditching guitars on this outing; people still care about guitars that much in 2014? That must be partially attributable to the fact that Civilian was one of the most bracing, emotive guitar albums in recent memory, and Wye Oak had announced themselves as artists who could go to new-ish places with the instrument. You could be skeptical of them going synth, I guess, because that seemed like an abandonment of what made them great. Well, turns out they’re still great. Shriek isn’t a case of writing a bunch of new Wye Oak songs with synth lines riding along where the guitar is conspicuously absent. These are songs built up in an entirely different fashion, allowing Jenn Wasner to explore her voice and craft melodies that would’ve been hard to picture in Wye Oak songs in the past. That results in the dreamscapes of the title track, the insistent and triumphant pop of “Glory,” or the beautifully intertwining vocal lines in the chorus of “Schools Of Eyes.” This is the third great Wye Oak record in a row (2009’s The Knot often gets overlooked in Wye Oak conversations). I don’t care if the next Wye Oak is guitar or synth or whatever: If they’ve got more music as gorgeous as Shriek, I just want as many Wye Oak records as they’ll give us. –Ryan [LISTEN]

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