An atmospheric gathering of repurposed and rescued gems.
Baltimore duo Wye Oak (Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack) are by no means new to releasing albums. Often pegged as something as simple as “indie rock” all the way to “nu gaze,” Wye Oak has consistently built up street cred with the release of favorably received records that never quite catapult them to true indie-rock star status. What is wonderful about Wye Oak is that they do not seem to care whatsoever. Releasing 5th studio album Tween under Merge Records, Wye Oak’s latest effort is an 8 track “mini-album” of repurposed outtakes that were previously scrapped from a period of 2011 to 2014, resulting in an accumulation of rescued gems from earlier albums Shriek and Civilian. What Tween lacks in visceral instrumentals (see: guitar) it makes up with Wasner’s breathtaking vocals and well placed builds of synth, harmony and percussion.
Tween begins with the thick, atmospheric track “Out Of Nowhere,” which right off the cuff sounds like it should be in the background of a highly realistic video game (the type with a fully realized story-line and dialogue that inevitably gets skipped). “If You Should See” is dreamy and thundering, with pounding drums that create immediacy beneath swells of synth and soaring, treated vocals. Instrumentally this track is the equivalent of punching through the clouds to get to heaven against God’s will; and if that sounds dramatic, that’s because it is. As far as a second intro (“Out Of Nowhere” serving as an entry way) is concerned, this is a powerful, slightly over the top track.
Things immediately slow down with “No Dreaming,” which reads like a mash-up of psychedelic dream pop with a ’90s twist and Victoria Legrand reminiscent vocals. Things seem slightly phoned in until about two minutes in when the song begins to crash into a build that can only be described as sexy. As the track melts into the second verse, what seemed pedantic earlier now is heavily confident, with a slow cadence that would grab any listening body and make it shake.
“Too Right” could almost be confused with a Metallica track for the first 45 seconds while “On Luxury” hits as heavy as any early ’90s synthed out R&B song used to, nearly on par with something as airy and spaced out as Sade. “On Luxury” is a textured track that spirals wonderfully, building in all the right places and serving up true catharsis. Luxury hotel spas around the globe take note – add this to the massage room playlist right after Enya. Tween is a valuable asset to the Wye Oak collection – a pace breaker of rogue tracks that couldn’t find a home elsewhere, living together in a somewhat harmonious yet nevertheless rough mosaic that works swimmingly as music therapy.