The lush and mighty Wye Oak stood for nearly five centuries in Wye Mill, Maryland, until a hurricane brought it low with a discordant crash. That same combination -- lushness and strength, mingled with noise and unexpected power - can be found in the duo who found inspiration in their namesake. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack follow in the tradition of a wide assortment of duos who have found success in recent years. Consider Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione, and Jack and Meg White, to name just two; on the surface, their music doesn't have much in common, but what they share is an ability to create something that seems greater than the sum of its parts. Wye Oak is just such a band.
There is very little "white space" on If Children, with songs sometimes blending into the next track, and at other times merely colliding head on. Opener "Please Concrete" is a sleepy, sweet little song desperately in search of a first cup of coffee, leading with Wasner's lovely vocals until kicking in with a caffeine rush of shoegaze about two minutes in before skidding right into the back of "Warning" at the next stop light. Wasner also leads on the wonderful "Keeping Company", her angelic singsong vocals dancing along with the alt-folk waltzing piano.
Stack also gets his time in the sun, taking the lead on "Regret," and the folky "A Lawn To Mow," both sonically somewhere between Simon and Garfunkel and Hansard and Irglová with their simple melodies and earnest lyrics. In fact, the best moments on the album call to mind the latter duo's Grammy winning effort (Once), with Stack and Wasner harmonizing as they do on "Archaic Smile," which starts out pretty, rises to a voiceless crescendo, and then tapers out into a wall of noise. Up and down, left and right, rise and fall... Wye Oak's If Children is all over the spectrum, sometimes all at once, with pleasant surprises at every turn. The biggest shock, however, is the one you'll never get over -- that just two people can make so much pretty noise.
Favorite Track: "I Don't Feel Young"
Michael Fiegel is a freelance writer and graphic designer. His diverse
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