Shriek of Pleasure
It’s atmospheric, dreamy and excellent. Wye Oak come through big with Shriek, their third major studio album. Amazing that two people can pump out this much noise, but Andy Stack (drums, keyboard, bass) and Jenn Wasner (vocals, guitars) aren’t exactly your average duo.
Notice the word “dreamy” up there? We’re not just tossing that one around – if any album was born directly from the stuff of dreams, it’s Shriek. Start with the sonic background. Wasner’s vocals take center stage here, but an enormous part of the album’s charm comes from Stack’s supporting instrumentals. His bass work is particularly fantastic; spacey songs like “Sick Talk” and “Schools of Eyes” depend on that surprisingly crunchy line to stay anchored and listenable. Pair that with solid percussion sections and synths galore, and you’ve got a recipe for whimsical, but grounded songs. And that’s just what Wasner needs to showcase her own considerable talents.
“Glory” is an album standout, and one of the most gorgeous songs we’ve encountered in quite some time. Surreal imagery heavily informs Wasner’s lyrics, and lines like “I watch the clock as it turns backwards / I see the water run uphill” pull listeners into Wye Oak’s peculiar, shifting world. Par for the course for many of the songs on Shriek, but “Glory” rises above them all on the back of a soaring, impossibly lovely refrain. It’s one of the few times Wasner really cuts loose during the album and you’ll wish she’d do it more often. Yes, songs like the winding “School of Eyes” are interesting and fun to listen to, but the heavily distorted vocals leave you missing the clarity on “Glory.” Not to discourage innovation, but damn can Wye Oak write a pop song.
The rest of the album doesn’t have quite the same initial punch, but holds plenty of intriguing crannies worth exploring. Opening track “Before” is a great start, as a stumbling, rhythmically odd intro tumbles you right into the dreamscape. “The Tower” was released early, so we already knew just how good it was. Playful and irresistible, it’s a perfect companion piece for the dark rush of “Glory,” which happens to be the following track.
Conclusion: Shriek‘s a heck of an album, with enough variety and depth to keep listeners coming back for repeat sessions. Now, if you’ll excuse us, it’s time to put “Glory” on again.