Apocalyptic modern commentary in a dream pop package
Two years after their sixth LP, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, Baltimore dream pop duo Wye Oak return with their second EP, No Horizon. Incredibly timely and conscious of the pandemic-ridden world people are living in, this release couldn’t come at a better time.
Old high school friends, the pairing of vocalist/guitarist/bassist Jenn Wasner of Dungeonesse and Flock of Dimes with drummer/keyboardist/backup vocalist Andy Stack of Joyero is seemingly a perfect marriage of talent. It’s no surprise with Stack’s work writing music for cinema that Wye Oak has had its fair share of features with songs notably popping up in AMC’s The Walking Dead and the film Safety Not Guaranteed. Every track on No Horizon sounds like it has the potential to do the same.
From the opener “AEIOU,” it is abundantly clear this is going to be a massive sounding release. Intense layering vocals, piano rumbles and giant choirs decorate the song, making it feel at home on the largest of stages. While the percussion on every song is impressive, it is most stellar here at the onset. Second single, “No Place,” is easily a standout. Dystopian with electronic flair, it is impossible not to feel anything in this reality with COVID as Wasner cries out, “Afraid of getting sick/ We do not kiss/ We do not shake hands.” It hits just a little too close to home. “Spitting Image” plays with tempo, speeding up as the song progresses. Wasner’s voice is particularly pretty here as she reaches the midpoint of the EP, singing, “I can see it all now.”
It’s followed by “(cloud),” an instrumental interlude that cuts in and out, resembling a poor connection, before immediately diving into the closer, “Sky Witness.” In the conclusion of the EP, simple yet sweet guitar lines compliment the thesis of the whole release: that people exist in the world but take it for granted until normality is ripped away. Unafraid to dip into sections that switch into minor, this is by far the most complex of all the easy listening on No Horizon.
Front to back, No Horizon is a solid, strong EP for Wye Oak. While some elements are slightly repetitive, mainly the massive choir that appears on nearly every track, the overall cohesiveness and execution of theme more than makes up for it. A 20-minute break from reality with Wye Oak’s dreamy folk sound may just be exactly what’s needed.