What’s up with Baltimore? The largest city in the state of Maryland has given us some of the most adventurous musical acts of the last decade, from Animal Collective and Dan Deacon to Beach House and Mannequin Pussy — artists that have little in common sonically besides their need to push creative boundaries.
Add dreamy Indie Pop duo Wye Oak to that list. The pair — singer/guitarist/bassist Jenn Wasner and drummer/keyboardist Andy Stack — have released five full-length albums over the last decade, the most recent being 2016’s Tween, a collection of songs that were “written, scrapped and repurposed” between 2011 and 2014.
Tween’s mix-and-match origins give it an eclectic feel compared to the two albums that preceded it — 2011’s Civilian and 2014’s Shriek, the former being more guitar-oriented, the latter more concerned with rhythmic nuance.
Wye Oak’s latest release, a limited-edition red vinyl 7-inch, which dropped on Sept. 22, features a pair songs that show off the duo’s evolving sound. “Spiral” sounds like St. Vincent minus the guitar theatrics, an atmospheric gem marked by Wasner’s modest but evocative voice and a hypnotic rhythmic pulse juiced by a few sweet additives like marimba. Side B’s “Wave Is Not the Water” opens with a driving beat and squiggly synths before Wasner’s ethereal vocals enter, thereafter moving in directions both mysterious and unexpectedly ass-moving.
“It’s been really important to me and to us to set a precedent with Wye Oak, specifically that Wye Oak doesn’t sound like any one kind of thing,” Wasner said in an interview last year with Stereogum. “And that’s why our last record (Tween) was so important, and why that’s really invigorated us working on new music now. It’s very important to us that we can be free within the structure of our band and make any kind of music that we want to. Otherwise, we’re not excited about it if we feel like we’re only supposed to deliver this one simple thing.”