Wye Oak

Wye Oak

Wye Oak

My Neighbor/ My Creator

Merge Records

The Baltimore, Md., duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner has made a serious reputation as indie-rock songsmiths. Their first two self-produced albums If Children (2008) and The Knot (2009) met much critical acclaim when they were released.

All Music Guide likened their debut album to a “master class in indie rock (with a large section on Yo La Tengo and the male-female duo dynamic)” and NME declared their second album a genre-bending outing with “swathes of shoegaze and fuzzpop and amping up bucolic love songs with blasts of warm noise.”

Now, less than a year after The Knot, the duo has delivered a five-song EP that further establishes their reputation and pushes the boundaries of their songwriting abilities. Using outside producers for the first time (Chris and Mickey Freeland), they add some new sonic dashes to their music palette, along with brighter, more up-tempo numbers than their previous stuff.

Yet despite the jaunty swagger of the songs on this EP, you can’t escape the bittersweet bite of the lyrics.

The opening track “My Neighbor” is a jangle-fest that would be at home on a Feist album. Wasner’s voice soars, and synthesizers cascade around a very brightly strummed guitar chop.

“Emmylou” is hard-driving and lovely at the same time. How do they manage that dichotomy? This song is more guitar-oriented, reminiscent of old R.E.M. or Lemonheads, complete with Dylanesque harmonica solo, with a flute solo in the fadeout that clearly echoes the opening of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Thumb.”

“My Creation” starts off with some simple acoustic finger-picking, then about midway through, all this aural texture comes washing out of the speakers. “I Hope You Die” has the slow tempo and minimal rhythm clicks of a more thoughtful Yo La Tengo song.

For the best sample of what these guys do for Wye Oak’s sound, skip straight to Track 5, a remix of the heartbreaking “Than I Do” that closes The Knot.

This group is fast becoming one of my favorites on the indie scene. Anyone in Baltimore area May 14 should check out their homecoming/record release party at the Ottobar. I’d be there if I could.

Wye Oak: wyeoakmusic.com

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