Words by LAUREN WILLIAMS
Sounds like: Chairlift’s upbeat, layered instrumentals merged with Beach House’s dreamy, open synths, and the gentler sound of St Vincent’s vocal melodies.
After two solid years of touring, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack of Wye Oak took an uncertain leap in reinventing the noisy, alt-rock sound that led their third full length album – 2011’s Civilian – to such esteem. For Shriek, their latest creation, the distorted guitar that shaped their previous album, was exchanged for a synthesiser.
Shriek merges bouncy bass and percussion with tiers of arpeggiated and dreamy synth tones as Wasner’s smooth vocals slide effortlessly throughout. Wye Oak delve further into pop influences while experimenting with layered effects and bursts of heavier, industrial sounding electronics. Standout track ‘Glory’ boosts energy levels with energetic bass, offbeat percussion, shimmering synth chords and one damn catchy chorus. The song strays fleetingly from its pop foundations in an electronic breakdown that sounds something like Space Invaders on steroids, before slipping seamlessly back into a final chorus.
Minimal, percussive synths intertwine with choppy drumbeats to create syncopated rhythms. Open, dreamy synthesisers also weave their way throughout, highlighting the duo’s dream pop tendencies with extended, pulsating chords. However, the reverb-drenched ‘I Know the Law’ verges on cheesy, pushing the swirling, ethereal synth to its limits.
Shriek is infused with nostalgic references, such as the 80s style synths of ‘Despicable Animal’ – although this and other less diverse tracks drag a little. Occasionally, Wye Oak evoke previous albums, such as the droning feedback and crunching distortion in ‘Paradise’. Nevertheless, their new sound prevails in the concluding song ‘Logic of Color’, with bouncy bass delay, syncopated drums and catchy melodies.
Wye Oak’s fourth album drifts far from their guitar driven, shoegazer past, and their spur to experiment stylistically and instrumentally has birthed a new success. Shriek sounds confident and considered, yet effortless. With each listen revealing new intricacies, this one will grow on you.