|Wye Oak — Tween (June 9 and CD/LP on August 5, 2016)
Wye Oak — Tween (June 9 and CD/LP on Aug. 5, 2016) ♣ Baltimore indie rock duo built around the husky vocals and autumnal songwriting of Jenn Wasner. Birth name: Jennifer Lynn Wasner
Born: April 16, 1986, Baltimore, Maryland
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Album release: June 9 and CD/LP on August 5, 2016
Record Label: Merge Records (US) / City Slang (EU)
Genre: Indie Folk, Rock
01 Out Of Nowhere 3:02
02 If You Should See 4:07
03 No Dreaming 5:28
04 Too Right 5:36
05 Better (For Esther) 5:25
06 On Luxury 4:37
07 Trigger Finger 3:52
08 Watching The Waiting 3:01
•• Jenn Wasner — Guitar, bass, lead vocals
•• Andy Stack — Drums, percussion, synthesizer
♣ The word “tween” implies a certain, very specific kind of awkwardness, and those implications are rarely positive. But think about it like this: Something “tween” is in the process of becoming something else, and there’s a very specific kind of beauty in that becoming. There’s something rewarding in recognizing and celebrating it — in meeting it halfway.
♣ Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack — the band’s two halves — described these songs as “not emblematic of a step forward, but a step sideways in time.” In other words, they just didn’t make sense for album number five — which will happen at some point in the future. But just because they didn’t belong there doesn’t mean they don’t belong anywhere. To wedge them onto Shriek would’ve been dishonest; to orphan them would’ve been somewhere on the line between criminal and just plain silly.
♣ Tween is full of gorgeous Wye Oak songs whose only crime was timing and context, made by two people at the height of their game. One minute Jenn and Andy are embracing their floatiest Cocteau Twins instinct (“If You Should See”), the next they’re back in Civilian territory a bit (“No Dreaming”), and later they’re slinky and electronic and gorgeously ‘80s (“On Luxury”).
♣ The common thread: These are no castaways or cutouts. In fact, pound for pound, Tween might actually be more directly accessible than Shriek. It should join the pantheon of amazing not~albums of history whose names try to downplay how good they actually are, like R.E.M.’s Dead Letter Office, The Who’s Odds and Sods, maybe even Dinosaur Jr.’s Whatever’s Cool With Me. Review
by Ian Cohen, JUNE 23 2016 / Score: 8.0
♣ Tween is a collection of outtakes from the perennially overlooked Baltimore indie rock band’s previous two LPs, yet it manages to capture the full scope of their vision.
♣ Wye Oak are somehow best known for being overlooked, just like a number of their Baltimore peers (Beach House, Lower Dens, Future Islands) once were. A breakthrough on the order of “Zebra,” “To Die in L.A.,” or “Seasons (Waiting on You)” — style has naggingly eluded the duo, but they aren’t really chasing after one anyway. Over the past decade, they’ve accumulated considerable goodwill with four cohesive and consistent records of indie rock repellent to hyperbole. Tween doesn’t appear all too likely to change things — it’s a collection of outtakes culled from the transition period between 2011’s Civilian and the synth~pop rebranding of Shriek while being presented as a “mini~album,” a format whose intentions still confuse most listeners. And yet, Tween is a collection of Wye Oak songs that becomes everything previous Wye Oak albums weren’t: unpredictable, assertive, varied and capable of capturing the full scope of their vision.
♣ Note that these are outtakes, not B~sides. Wye Oak’s dream~pop of has never soared to the heights reached by the skyscraping “If You Should See,” and the forward velocity of nominal single “Watching the Waiting” is a new pacesetter as well. It’s hard to imagine anyone hearing these as, at best, the 11th~best songs the duo wrote between 2012 and 2014. I can’t imagine that Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack feel that way either — Wye Oak thought highly enough of the scorched~earth dirge “Trigger Finger” to release it as a maxi~single in 2015.
♣ Due to the narrow artistic parameters of Shriek (mostly: no guitars), every song on Tween has this quality of a gem rescued from the cracks. “On Luxury” is clearly a product of Shriek’s emphasis on electronics, but far more percussive and textured to fit amongst the sleeker pop numbers. Likewise, “Better (For Esther)” and “If You Should See” are within the galaxy of ‘80s pop, though they touch on the era’s “big music” of U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen.
♣ Wasner has proven to be a restless artist in and out of Wye Oak, so the decision to switch to bass and synths on Shriek was understandable and an easy narrative hook for a band that never provided one. But it wasn’t entirely beneficial, as Wasner happens to be a really expressive guitar player and Tween makes it clear that she was nowhere near running out of things to say. “No Dreaming” initially could be mistaken for a cut on Beach House’s Thank Your Lucky Stars, but then Wasner pulls it towards opposite extremities with a seasick sway of high~capoed chords and a torrential downpour of noise in the chorus. “Too Right” and “Trigger Finger” are even more physically demanding, feedback~scalded dirges that take on the burnt beauty of a Randall Dunn production. Even when Wye Oak hew towards the traditional indie rock structures of the past, they’ve never sounded this aggressive or downright rude.
♣ This isn’t true of Wasner’s vocals or lyrics on Tween, both of which remain unerringly gorgeous and impregnable. The sonic rapture of “If You Should See” clouds an acceptance of romantic stability (“It doesn’t take me by the throat/but it’s an outcome I’ll never have to run from”) and throughout Tween, Wasner maintains the composure she’s shown in remarkable duets with Patrick Stickles and Samuel Herring, her spangly pop project Dungeonesse and the shoegaze~indebted Flock of Dimes. The flipside of hearing Wasner comfortably fit into so many contexts is that it starts to feel like Wye Oak is in a no~win competition with everyone’s personal Best of Jenn Wasner mixtape.
♣ That’s kind of what Tween provides, which is why it instantly feels colorful and more exciting than any of Wye Oak’s full~lengths — would any of these eight stylistic tangents have as much impact if they were extrapolated to 40 minutes? More importantly, Tween offers true catharsis, whether it’s physical release triggered incapacitating beauty or pummeling brutality or just Wye Oak saying “fuck it.” A mini~album of outtakes might not be the protracted breakthrough so many wish for Wye Oak, but as they take their galloping victory lap on “Watching the Waiting,” Tween sure sounds like triumph. >> http://pitchfork.com/
° If Children (2007, self~released; 2008, Merge Records)
° The Knot (2009, Merge Records)
° Civilian (2011, Merge Records)
° Shriek (2014, Merge Records)
° Tween (2016, Merge Records)
|Wye Oak — Tween (June 9 and CD/LP on August 5, 2016)