An Idolator Enthusiastic Endorsement: Why You Should Drop Everything And Listen To Wye Oak’s “The Knot” Right Now
Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak are either two of the most talented musicians currently out there right now, or they’re aliens from a distant planet where all beings are born with the inherent ability to produce songs that are equal parts intelligent, emotional, challenging, and fun. Quite frankly I’m starting to think the latter, because they do it just a little too well.
The Knot, the duo’s follow-up to Wye Oak’s 2007 debut If Children, shows that the band has set its Crock-Pot to slow simmer and added some key ingredients while maintaining the stew’s, uh, original flavor, if I may follow through with that metaphor.
This time around they’re a little moodier; brooding tracks like “For Prayer” and “That I Do” alternate between melancholy, foreboding guitar riffs laid over menacing keyboards and crashing, cacophonous interludes that stretch and bend, adding incredible texture to the songs. Their music, by extension, captures—by way of magic, or the aformentioned alien powers, or I don’t know what—the very essence of emotion. Wasner’s small, bittersweet voice is pitch-perfect and anxious as she sings “Cross your fingers, say a prayer / You don’t believe, but I don’t care.” In fact, anxiety hovers edgily above the entire album, which is fraught with lyrics like “We are both the same: unwell”; “Better isn’t always doing well / I know because I’m better now myself”; and “It’s true, you love me too / But not the way that I do.” Wasner has a gift for nailing a particular feelingin a few simple words, and her delivery is often devastating. But it’s not all doom and gloom. One of the album’s most sparkling moments is “Siamese,” which has a lovely wilting string part and kicky drum beat with a brilliantly-placed tambourine.
The shiniest jewel in the crown is “I Want for Nothing,” of which I’ve been a big fan since first hearing it live. The album version is vastly reworked and downright stunning; a heartswelling violin part has been laid over the spruced-up guitar riff, which itself no longer wobbles, but rather wafts in perfect harmony with the new addition. And to top it off Wasner opens the song with some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in the past few years: “Say no to me, and I will love you more / Play me for keeps.”
The only song on the album that I don’t love inside out is the sprawling, seven-minute “Mary Is Mary.” It’s a little too depressing and aimless, even for me. Other than that, The Knot is air-tight, hovering expertly between anxious noise and intricate melodies, imbued with intelligence but almost never marred by self-indulgence.
The Knot [Merge Records; full-album stream available]