Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Wye Oak is doing just fine without guitar

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In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in anticipation of our great SXSW party on Friday, we’re highlighting tracks from some of the artists playing the show.


The headline-grabbing feature of Wye Oak’s forthcoming Shriek is its lack of guitar, the melodic dynamo that powers the duo’s first three LPs. But that’s not news to anyone who’s been paying attention to what Wye Oak’s been doing since the release of 2011’s best record, Civilian: There was the digital winterscape of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack’s Holiday Undercover contribution, the synthpop atmospherics previewed in the their 2012 A.V. Fest set, and Wasner’s dabbling with electronics and programmed beats with Flock Of Dimes and Dungeonesse. Okay, so maybe it’s only unexpected if you haven’t followed Wye Oak’s output as closely as the staff at The A.V. Club, but still: Guitar or no guitar, “The Tower” is unmistakably the work of Wye Oak.

First and foremost, Wasner may have forsaken the instrument she used to hold in her hands, but she’s always going to have the one that lives in her throat. On “The Tower,” the smoky longing of her vocals seeps into the spaces between Stack’s keyboard licks, two voices calling out to one another, forever one syncopated beat away from receiving the message. The process of getting to know the new Wye Oak starts off on fittingly unsure footing, but it smooths out after a few listens. The interplay between Wasner and Stack is still there, it’s just evolved, cascading across “The Tower” in ways that recall the colorful psychedelia of If Children’s “Warning” or the three-whiskey-slurring of the strings on the Knot standout “Siamese.” The most familiar beacon of the band’s sound doesn’t shine from “The Tower,” but the things that make Wye Oak itself.