Wye Oak Is A Rare Band That Actually Delivers On Lofty, Poetic Promises

04.06.18 3 weeks ago

Shervin Lainez

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I write about music on the internet for a living, which means a couple things: I can wear what I want to work because nobody sees me typing away at the desk in my bedroom, and I get dozens of emails every day from PR people sharing what new work the artists they represent are trying to promote.

For those of you who don’t read these press releases on the daily, they typically go something like this: Along with the album cover, tracklist, and usually some upcoming tour dates too, they’re filled with over-the-top flowery language about what inspired the artist to make this batch of songs, and quotes explaining what sort of sounds they were trying to channel and what mystical places the songs are meant to take you to.

Engaging in this sort of world-building that makes the album seem like a great place to be sounds like a good idea, but it can be problematic when the artist isn’t able to deliver on these high-apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes. Sadly, that happens more often than it doesn’t. That’s a trap Wye Oak could’ve easily fallen into with their new album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, but thankfully, they didn’t — and it’s not because they didn’t make big promises.

When revealing the album’s existence to the world earlier this year, press materials described it as “[pursuing] a litany of modern malaises, each of its dozen tracks diligently addressing a new conflict and pinning it against walls of sound, with the song’s subject and shape inextricably and ingeniously linked.” Later, on the way home from SXSW, the band’s Jenn Wasner wrote a lengthy essay about the tumultuous journey that led her to now.

So far, it’s been quite the ride: Wye Oak has been a noteworthy and flat-out excellent band for over a decade now, and their six albums have been a key component of Merge Records’ roster of indie excellence. All the while, Wasner has had to contend with her own anxiety, guilt, and perfectionism, all of which can inhibit meaningful art just as easily as it can fuel it. You have to imagine that the band’s Andy Stack also had some adversity of his own to contend with as well.

In other words, there’s a lot going on outside of the record itself, but if the actual aesthetic product isn’t on par with the framing that presents it, then all you’ll be left with is an empty picture is. Here’s the thing, though: Wye Oak really pulled it off.

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