When Jenn Wasner’s multi-tracked vocals arrive, they wash into the song in full-on School of Seven Bells fashion and, with the ongoing jig of synthesizers, conjure some sort of soaring, hopeful ache that seems to make life both challenging and worth living at the same time.
Both dreamy and driven, the title track from the new Wye Oak album chugs to a brisk, intricate-sounding 4/4 beat, propelled by an array of synth lines with enough texture and zest to support the 57-second introduction. (Listen in particular for the pentatonic arpeggios punctuated by percussive stabs and distant twiddles on top.) When Jenn Wasner’s multi-tracked vocals arrive, they wash into the song in full-on School of Seven Bells fashion and, with the ongoing jig of synthesizers, conjure some sort of soaring, hopeful ache that seems to make life both challenging and worth living at the same time.
And okay that’s a lot to put on an indie rock song, or any song for that matter. So let’s get back to the music itself, and specifically the guitar work. Do you even notice it? There in the chorus, that distorted, antic melody underpinning Wasner’s repetition of the titular phrase, that’s her partner Andy Stack on guitar. The sound is charming and inventive as it intertwines with the staccato synths and Wasner’s plain-spoken vocals, producing in its entirety a song that feels very alive, very of the moment. So…can we lay to rest, yet, the streaming-induced hand-wringing about the death of rock? Is getting three million streams the only legitimate goal in musical life? There are smart young musicians out there who find artistic merit in extending the spectrum of rock’n’roll history to include what they’re trying to say and do. Part of separating ourselves from the 21st century’s digital trance involves remembering there is more to music than virality. There’s more to everything than virality.
“The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs” is available as an MP3 via KEXP. The album was just released this past week on Merge Records. Wye Oak has been featured on Fingertips three previous times, dating back to 2008 (see the Artist Index for details).
There’s something that almost doesn’t compute here, this sense that these four dudes from Philadelphia have figured out some new way to make old-fashioned rock’n’roll.
Instantly likeable, and it only gets better. Guitars like you haven’t heard in a long time, first of all: an adept, introductory one-two punch of scratchy atonal rhythm and keening lead. It’s a four-piece band and you can hear the four pieces, there’s space in the mix, and there’s order and authority, but expressed in the most casual manner. There’s something that almost doesn’t compute here, this sense that these four dudes from Philadelphia have figured out some new way to make old-fashioned rock’n’roll. There are hooks, there are the good chords, there’s a lead singer who takes charge without showing off, there are some squiggly moments nearly beyond earshot.
And those guitars, which get an invigorating chance to stretch out, as the lead guitar’s solo at 1:50 burns directly into the rhythm solo (2:07), now a lead in its own right, and what a searing and inventive and expansive solo this turns out to be, all the way to 2:40. So much territory we seem to cover in a song that still manages to wrap up at 3:25. And I mentioned hooks, didn’t I? Check out the chorus (which doesn’t sound like a chorus) sprung upon us, casually, at 0:55, with improbable, melodic leaps that stick in your head because maybe you’ve never heard them before, or maybe you have and have just forgotten because most pop songs use the same friggin’ chords over and over and over. And few operate with such a tight and creative rhythm section, because too many rhythm sections these days are digital afterthoughts. Music has been suffering. But not here.
Founded in 2011, The Burgeoning features brothers Logan (vocal, rhythm guitar) and Alex (bass) Thierjung, Mark Menkevich (lead guitar), and Brandon Bradley (drummer). “Beautiful Rampage” is a song from their debut EP, Loud Dreams, which is due out in late October. Check it out on Bandcamp when the time comes.