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Album Review: Wye Oak ‘Shreik’

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.

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Check 'Em Out

Check ‘Em Out: All Them Witches

all-them-witches-Photo-by-Hannah-Arnold

Photo Credit Hannah Arnold

All Them Witches formed in 2012 (the 6th of January to be more accurate), in the musical haven that is Nashville, Tennessee. The band is on the cusp of releasing their third studio record in four years. Along with their studio albums they have also put out a live album and four EP’s. These include Born Under a Bad Sign, the twenty five minute epic that is Effervescent (2013) and on the 20th of April 2015 they released the A Sweet Release EP.

Guess what? It’s amazing and very psychedelic. It takes you away from the world that you’re in. Even if you like that world, this EP and Effervescent take you on a journey to the most relaxing yet wonderfully wacky place, one that I will be visiting many, many more times.

All Them Witches’ first full length album, Our Mother Electricity (2012), is a great debut. It is a showcase of the band’s talent and wide ranging musical styles, from songs like Heavy/Like A Witch, a heavy rock number, to the laid back track Easy. The album moves on through to the stunning Family Song For Leaving. If you purchase the special addition then you get the additional track I Can’t Even See Myself which is a thumper. The song creates some great imagery with its lyrics. I’d go as far as saying this first album is as near to perfect a debut that a band has ever gotten. It may be high praise but it is truly deserved. Our Mother Electricity allowed All Them Witches to embrace their eccentricity for the follow up, Lightning at the Door (2013).

The band did not wait around and released the album Lightning At The Door, just one year later. Kicking this masterpiece off is Funeral For a Great Drunken Bird, which is a slow building song that infuses the best of the band’s psychedelic elements: a grand start indeed. Following this, the quartet ramp up the volume and distortion in the next notable track, When God Comes Back, before the song that introduced me to this band, The Marriage of Coyote Woman. It is spectacular. It takes you back to a great slow blues infused psychedelic piece.

Charles William is the fantastic progressive rock number of the album, with its great bass intro to the brilliant classic keys solo that blasts through when it comes around. Penultimately there is the instrumental track Romany Dagger. It is a very different song to your average everyday track and indeed to the rest of the album, but it still fits perfectly on Lightning at The Door and with All Them Witches’ work prior and since.

This is why I implore you to give this outstanding band a listen. Charles Michael Parks Jr, Ben McLeod, Robby Staebler and Allan Van Cleave have created some of the best and most exciting music in a very short time frame. You need to Check ‘Em Out.

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