Wye Oak – Webster Hall – May 7, 2014
After heavily touring in support of their previous album, Civilian, Wye Oak, the indie-rock duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, retired to their respective homes for a much-deserved break. With Wasner in Baltimore and Stack in Portland, Ore., the distance provided a different way of collaborating and uncovered a new sound. Wasner traded in her guitar for a bass, while Stack assumed his place behind synthesizers rather than a drum kit.
With the time off, their roles reversed. As Wasner explained in an interview, “It basically inverts what we were responsible for. Andy was playing drone-y basslines on keyboard. Now he’s responsible for the more upper register stuff that guitar would normally handle, while I’m playing basslines on a bass guitar.” Tossing aside the indie-folk label, the pair returned with their audacious new album, Shriek, to a welcoming crowd at Webster Hall last night. Opening with the new tune “Before,” Wasner took to her bass while Stack added some darting synths. It was a grand introduction to their new sound, and it was quickly accepted by the audience.
Shriek could be the summer soundtrack for lazy, hazy afternoons lounging by a pool or laying out in the park—perfectly exemplified by the slow-burner “The Tower,” while the title track that followed offered choral-like vocals. Not to disappoint fans, the pair played “Holy Holy” and “Plains,” from their breakout, Civilian. Wasner expressed their excitement to play the renowned venue before launching into “Spiral,” a one-off for Adult Swim’s Singles Program. Digging even deeper into their back catalog, the duo treated old fans to “Take It In” and “That I Do,” off 2009’s The Knot. With a quick exit and prompt return for an encore, Wasner announced they’d do a cover, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” before closing the performance with crowd-favorite “Civilian.” —Sharlene Chiu