WYE OAK play the Horseshoe on Sunday (May 11). See listing. Rating: NNN
Baltimore/Portland-based duo Wye Oak came onto the indie rock scene in 2008 with plucky guitars and decisive drums as their backbone, the odd distorted breakdown scattered throughout for drama and Jenn Wasner’s feathery vocals floating overtop. Four albums later, the band is unrecognizable.
Wasner traded her signature guitar for bass and synthesizers, while drummer Andy Stack picked up the keyboards as well. Circuitous guitar lines are replaced with pulsating R&B-tinged synth melodies, and the drums have evolved from rhythm-keeper to main player at centre stage – especially apparent on songs like Paradise. And although they’re still sweet, Wasner’s vocals seem more confident and assertive now, as if she’s come of age.
Still, there are moments on Shriek just yearning for a clever guitar melody or screeching solo. Here’s hoping Wasner hasn’t retired the instrument for good.
Top track: Paradise