Wye Oak: Shriek review – beautifully crafted but unexceptional synth-pop

(City Slang)

Where Baltimore duo Wye Oak's breakthrough third album, 2011's Civilian, featured their usual indie-folk guitars and drums, here they've ditched that sound and instrumentation. Singer Jenn Wasner has switched from guitar to bass, while drummer/keyboard player Andy Stack dabbles in electronics. Changing course to synth-pop on the back of their first taste of success seems a strange move, but lovely opener Before sees Wasner's vocals occupying the same state of electronic grace as Annie Lennox did on No More I Love You's, as drum machines and synths bubble and clatter around her crystal tones. That's not the only echo of 90s pop: Wasner's vocals recall Sinéad O'Connor at her purest, some tracks have a Corrs-like smoothness, and the introduction to Glory sounds like a classic Madonna track, but slower and encased in snow. However, they don't seem to have quite mastered songwriting within the new sound. Far too few of the songs are strong enough to really engage – so Shriek wafts by in a beautifully crafted haze.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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