Tag Archives: Wye Oak


Wye Oak Wow Webster Hall with a New Album and a New Sound

May 8th, 2014

Wye Oak – Webster Hall – May 7, 2014

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

Photos courtesy of Ahron Foster | ahronfoster.com


Wye Oak Bring Brand New Material to Webster Hall Tomorrow

May 6th, 2014

Jenn Wasner (vocals and bass) and Andy Stack (drums, keys and vocals) formed the rock duo Wye Oak after returning home to Baltimore from college nearly 10 years ago—the name comes from the gigantic state tree of Maryland. They initially made music as Monarch, but the two moved on to bigger things with the name change and the release of their third full-length, the guitar-centric Civilian (stream it below), which the A.V. Club named the top album of 2011: “Maybe it’s 2011’s darkest album by the band with the brightest future.” Last week, Wye Oak (above, performing “Glory” at this year’s Coachella) returned with their fourth LP, the acclaimed Shriek (stream it below), eschewing guitars (Wasner now plays the bass) for synths. And again the folks at the A.V. Club showed some love: “An album that expresses ‘the nagging thought that I had never lived, or else forget’ ought to inspire Wye Oak to keep on living—guitar or no guitar—especially one this good.” Wasner and Stack are now touring North America in support of their new album, and you can see them tomorrow night at Webster Hall. Braids open the show.


Sharon Van Etten and Friends Play Town Hall Tomorrow Night

November 14th, 2012

Like many before her, Sharon Van Etten came to New York City from New Jersey in order to make music. And despite her East Coast upbringing, Van Etten sings of Middle American—universal, even—themes, but she does so in her uniquely powerful voice. The talented singer-songwriter has put out three folkie albums, including this year’s acclaimed Tramp, which Rolling Stone says “plays like a female version of Beck’s Sea Change.” The album was a bit of an all-star affair, with appearances by the National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and a host of others. And when Van Etten (above, doing “Give Out” for Minnesota Public Radio) plays Town Hall tomorrow night, she’ll be joined by Aaron Dessner and Wasner, plus Thurston Moore, John Moloney, the Antlers’ Peter Silberman and Megafaun’s Brad Cook.


A Crowd-Pleasing Night at The Bowery Ballroom

October 16th, 2012

The Mountain Goats/Matthew E. White – The Bowery Ballroom – October 15, 2012

It was an evening built to please as the Mountain Goats played The Bowery Ballroom last night in their third of four sold-out New York City appearances. But before John Darnielle and Co. took the stage, there was the matter of the opener, the crowd-pleasing Matthew E. White and his stage-filling band. Playing music from White’s excellent Big Inner (sounds like beginner), the collective of Richmond, Va., musicians included a full horn section, a percussionist, two keyboard players and a pedal steel. It was a more soulful version of a band Miles Davis might have put together in the early ’70s. “One of These Days” was exemplar of the set, starting with a kind of indie-rock love-song vibe then entering a head-bobbing center that had White and crew channeling Stevie Wonder before building to a gospel rave-up climax. “Big Love” highlighted the deeper funk, with some straight-from-the-butcher meaty bass hooks and cosmic harmonies. The set ended with an epic creeping version of “Brazos,” which had the band firing on all cylinders, and one reviewer wondering how the headliner could top one of the better opening sets he’d seen in a while.

Of course, pleasing the crowd was no problem for Darnielle, who had the full house enrapt before the first note. The Mountain Goats opened with “Love Love Love,” off 2005’s Sunset Tree—Darnielle’s voice a liquid, filling the container of The Bowery Ballroom completely. As the set weaved through back-catalog hits and a healthy dose of the group’s newest release, Transcendental Youth, the audience hung on each lyric. The words seemed to float above their heads like the dialogue in a graphic novel, with the crowd torn between quiet, loving admiration and enthusiastic loud sing-alongs. Requests were shouted out, and some, like “San Bernardino” were granted, while others were ignored. Throughout, Darnielle showed a penchant for taking unpleasant source material and giving it an upbeat musical sheen. He introduced songs about bitter divorce (“First Few Desperate Hours”), experimentation in satanic ritual (“In Memory of Satan”), waking up in a hospital room (“White Cedar”) or literally climbing out of the pits of hell. But with the constant churn of the Mountain Goats’ rhythm section, many of these were up-tempo and happy despite their dark undertones. The secret weapon was bassist Peter Hughes, who was like a waitress in a diner keeping Darnielle’s coffee cup filled with a steady stream of caffeinated licks.

Late in the set, Darnielle paired off in duos with bass and then drums, and he even played a few songs solo, including a Wye Oak cover and “Sax Rohmer #1,” which followed a long introduction that included apologies for any forgotten lyrics and a short political rant on the failure to defeat anti-gay-marriage legislation in his home state of North Carolina. Late in the set, the Mountain Goats invited Matthew E. White’s horn players out to join in and, ironically, bring the mood down to finally match the lyrics. But not for too long, as the set closed with “No Children,” from 2002’s Tallahassee, which featured the lyrics “I hope you die, I hope we both die” accompanied joyfully by the crowd singing as loud as they had all night. —A. Stein



Wye Oak – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 20, 2012

September 21st, 2012

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | dianawongphoto.com


What the Folk?

April 15th, 2011

Wye Oak – The Bowery Ballroom – April 14, 2011

Identifying a band’s genre requires guesswork, drawing generalizations from assumptions. What’s heard is instinctively analyzed and distinguished. The difficulty comes when styles clash and meld, defying preordained expectations. Granted, some sounds are more recognizable than others, but really, what the hell is folk rock? After seeing Wye Oak, I’m not entirely sure.

Last night, playing before a capacity crowd, the Baltimore duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack headlined their first show at The Bowery Ballroom. Labor is divided with Wasner on guitar and vocals and Stack simultaneously balancing drums and keys. If the latter task seems difficult, that’s because it is. While Wasner is the center of the group, chatty and endearing, Stack provides stability, juggling his tasks with quiet concentration. And even though Wasner spoke for both of them, expressing gratitude and bewilderment, often saying, “I can’t believe you’re here to see us,” musically, they’re an egalitarian unit. Both contribute equally to Wye Oak.

One of the many pleasures of seeing this band live is witnessing their alchemic performance. Notions of masculinity and femininity and aggression and delicacy are recombined in song arrangements that both swell and overwhelm. Wasner’s voice, which falls somewhere in between a young Stevie Nicks’s and indie-rock contemporary Victoria Legrand’s, is powerful in a naturalistic, effortless way. In the show’s opener, “The Alter,” a song off Wye Oak’s new album, Civilian, sensuous vocals ultimately gave way to a monstrous, distorted solo. As made clear from the first song, Wasner is capable of raw, improvisational guitar work that’s as impressive as it is effective. Conversely, Stack’s light drum patterns and melodic flourishes, especially on “Civilian” and “For Prayer,” melted into choruses where brute force is favored. So while Wye Oak may be folk rock to some, it’s a sound of its own to me. —Jared Levy