When I first heard that Wye Oak’s new album, Shriek, would be a lot less guitar-centred and more electronic than their previous releases, I was a little anxious; Jenn’s guitar playing in some of the band’s older tracks (Civilian, in particular) was easily my favorite thing about the band and had begun to have an influence on some of the material I was writing myself. Still, I trusted the band enough to resist the urge to cry out in anguish and curse their names over a change in direction, and I decided to just wait and see before passing any kind of judgement. Even then, I remember when I first saw a link to stream The Tower, which would have been my first taste of the band’s new direction – I actually wound up delaying the experience for the best part of a day because I wanted to give it all of my attention, and also because I was somewhat terrified that I wouldn’t like it. Turns out I didn’t have much to fear.
It is undeniable that Shriek is a pretty big step away from the material we’re used to hearing from the two-piece, but it seems they’ve handled the change rather well. The reason for the change in direction stems from a particularly bad case of writer’s block that Jenn was suffering from after the band returned from taking their Civilian album on tour, which appeared to be the result of some negative association she built towards playing guitar over the years. To combat this, the band decided they needed to adapt a new approach to writing music together; Jenn took up a bass guitar, Andy took a much more prominent role in the writing than he had previously, and Shriek was born (at least, that seems to be the case based on a couple of interviews I read before the album was released).
There is a lot for me to like in this album, but Jenn’s bass playing was probably the highlight for me; I know for a fact that she can handle a guitar, but I had worried about how well her ability would transfer to bass, as, contrary to popular belief, a good guitarist doesn’t necessarily make for a good bassist, and being good at playing bass isn’t quite as easy as many would seem to believe. Much to my relief, it turns out that Jenn is actually more than capable of writing some pretty satisfactory bass lines.
If you’re interested in checking out the album but you’d like some recommendations on where to begin, Glory and The Tower are probably my favorite tracks from the album, and I highly recommend giving them a shot.
Review by Vincent Hughes | Website