Published Apr 03, 2018Maturity can pose tough questions for seasoned musicians. At what point does music cease to be a calling and instead become a career? Do the comforts of age necessarily breed complacency, or can they foster a self-awareness that lends more honesty to their art?
Baltimore's Wye Oak deftly answers these questions on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs. Frontwoman Jenn Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack skillfully synthesize their last three albums into a glossier blend of synth-laced dream pop. It's the product of a band that know their strengths and work around their limitations.
Synthesizers fall into the latter category. Wasner and Stack have leaned heavily on the instrument since 2014's Shriek, which resulted in a gauziness that muffled their dynamic range. "Symmetry" proves the duo can still act upon their noisier instincts, coasting on a minimal John Carpenter riff before bursting into a stuttering hook. The pair may use synths more sparingly, but it's ultimately to greater effect. A shrill squeal suffices on "The Instrument," while a quiet, oscillating pattern brings the title track's pristine vocal harmonies to the forefront.
In fact, Wasner's talent ultimately bolsters the album. There's no opportunity for her voice to get lost, bringing her clear-eyed yet elusive lyrics into greater focus. "You of All People" meditates on the follies of interpretation, but it's "Lifer" that proves most interesting. Dwelling on a search for continued purpose amid success, the song never offers complacency as an option. Judging from this album, neither do Wye Oak. (Merge)