The Baltimore duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack released their fourth full length studio album on April 28th in the U.S, and the 29th in Europe. This album goes in a different direction from their previous work, which was led by Jenn’s melodic guitar and atmospheric vocals. Andy is behind the trap and also plays keys, usually both at the same time.
The new sound came to be due to Wasner being unable to write music on the guitar. It was a severe case of ‘writers block’. At one point it was in doubt whether or not this album was going to be made. This in turn, led Jenn to change from a 6-string guitar to the 4-string bass as her main weapon of choice, and Andy staying on drums and keys.
The album kicks off with the song ‘Before’. It immediately states the pairs intention for the album, a synth comes in setting the slow tempo, followed by a simple drum beat and Jenn’s swirling vocals; it is a mellow track that is a good opener. Following this is the title track itself, ‘Shriek’. In this song Jenn’s voice shows its strengths, hitting some great notes that create an atmospheric experience. I even noticed a bird chirp in the music which I appreciated as I only heard it on the third occasion of listening. It is a credit to them for putting such nuances in to the music, it adds a deeper dimension, something for the listener to discover with each listen. ‘The Tower’ is up next. It was the first song to be shown from the album before its release, so set the initial impression for all their fans. And what an impression that was: one of the strongest songs on the album, a catchy number with a simple constant beat that plays throughout the song. I believe that lyrically ‘The Tower’ divulges Wasner’s experiences and struggles of feeling helplessness, echoing throughout the record.
‘Glory’ is the best song off the album. It is a memorable upbeat song that is the centre piece to this work. Highlighting the great relationship between Wasner and Stack, who have been playing together since high school. It has an extremely hook-y chorus that will get stuck in your head because it is so great. The amazing bass line that is at the front of the track leads the way, and coupled with the mesmerising vocals it creates an epic pop song that deserves more recognition than it will get. I have found myself wanting to listen to it over and over and I certainly have done. Skipping ahead four tracks to the jungle-style ‘Paradise’,this is a song that transports you to wherever your paradise is, be it a sand beach or a tropical jungle tree house. With its tribal feel it adds another dimension to the record.
Last on the album is ‘Logic of Color’ a mid-paced track that is a very bright and uplifting number – a good way to round off the record. The song is up there as one of the strongest out of the ten tracks, it will leave you humming the tune a long time after the last note is played.
All in all, Shriek is a strong album that infuses heavy synths, drums, captivating vocals and groovy bass. It leaves you wanting to listen again and again. Yes, it is a different sound that Wye Oak has gone for here but I commend all artists that change their sound. Do something different and keep it fresh, rather than doing the same stale thing over and over, creating a mechanised sound that everyone gets bored with – including the artist themselves. The crisp, new sound has added another string to the bow that is Wye Oak.