Wye Oak | If Children (Merge)

cd_wye-oak.jpgIf this album is just the beginning, this band will do great things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music is a wonderful thing. That’s obvious to most people, but the notion really grabs you when a song or an album or an artist comes out of nowhere to instantly become something you can’t get enough of. Baltimore, Md.’s Wye Oak will grab many in this same way with their first album, If Children.

Wye Oak has mastered the art of getting the most out of the least; the band consists of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack and that’s it. But If Children is so strong and textured that such a bare-bones lineup seems almost impossible. Certainly, the studio allows for the magic of overdubs and multi-track recording to make it easy for even one person to make a record that sounds like a roomful of musicians contributed to it. On the band’s website (www.wyeoakmusic.com), however, the duo contends that while playing live makes them have to split musical duties, both played all the instruments on If Children.

The album opens with "Please Concrete," a song that starts and ends as a soft, pretty number featuring Wasner’s unassuming voice; the surprise is that it’s separated in the middle by loud, fast, screaming guitars. The contrast is as beautiful as the song itself. "Please Concrete" almost foreshadows the rest of the album that way: sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always good.

Stack lends his voice to lead vocals on "Regret" and "A Lawn to Mow," two songs that sound like they’d be right at home in the Beatles’ catalog. Several songs, including standouts "Archaic Smile" and "Orchard Fair," feature a free and easy harmony. But Wasner’s voice is the strength of If Children and perhaps of Wye Oak itself. From the higher octaves of "Keeping Company" to the rising wails of "If Children Were Wishes," she projects a quietly confident comfort with the wide reaches of alternative rock or indie rock or whatever we’re calling it these days.

As good as the whole of If Children is, the second track on the album, "Warning," stands head and shoulders above the rest of the songs. And that’s not a discredit to the others; it’s just that "Warning" is outstanding in every way. It’s the kind of song that would sound right at home on several radio formats and should make people want to go buy the whole album in the hopes that the rest of it sounds just as good. Even the opening riff forces you to smile because you know your new favorite song is starting. The formula isn’t anything groundbreaking: a catchy guitar riff, feedback and squeals, thumping drums and bass, a strong but cool female voice. But the result is just plain kickass.

Wye Oak has set the bar impressively high with If Children. If this album is just the beginning, this band will do great things. A+ | Chris Reed

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