Wye Oak – The Knot

Wye Oak – The Knot

Wye Oak – The Knot

When critics say stuff like, “A decent debut, maybe the next one will be better,” some of us actually mean it. The strength at which Wye Oak revels in was somewhat hidden on its previous album, If Children. Lost in most of the noise and clutter was Jenn Wasner’s fantastic voice and Andy Stack’s ability as a “wall of sound” creator. On their new album, The Knot, these skills are not only refined but they showcase a wider, more advanced decadence and a band that sounds that much better, because of it.

The bell tolls on “Milk and Honey” to introduce a new sound devoted for the sake of enticing and inviting. Stack and Wasner sing in perfect harmony before towers of keyboards and hand claps build in anticipation. The air’s let out with the quietness of “For Prayer,” which just happens to be supported solely by Wasner’s guitar and voice. From here on out, Stack backs away and plays second fiddle to Wasner’s lyrics of deception and denial.

Opting to focus his attention on the production, instrumentation and his own clamoring drums and gutsy keyboards, Stack develops and enforces thick covers of calamity. This not only opens the door for Wasner to play in and adapt to the juxtaposition of building crescendos and striking softness, but her mesmerizing voice flourishes. There’s nothing finer to portray this than “Take it In”‘s forceful guitar and the way it just commands the scene. Even though Stack’s cymbals are justly pushing noisy propulsion, Wasner’s guitar is up for the challenge. And as she soothingly and sweetly sings the bridge back to the discord, she sounds every bit of excellent.

Wasner’s voice shares in the Americana roots Sheryl Crow once had, except on The Knot, Wasner sounds like a determined woman. And abandoning the indie rock shtick in favor of opening a deeper-rooted sound in folk and the aforementioned Americana, the duo project countless moments of radiance. “I Want for Nothing” is a mysteriously terrific song with its swirling strings and wave of guitar reverb. As Wasner sings, “He knows not what he needs, I cry for you,” the cymbals crash around her with the strings probing and stabbing at every chance; she’s then left in repetition, singing, “I want for nothing…”

There’s not a lot of happiness you’re going to find on here because of the central theme The Knot delivers. However, the actual sound of the album is a worthy accomplishment. At times hushed and restrained, as in the opening of “Mary is Mary,” there are moments of sparkling guitar and pop like on “Siamese,” and rushing, pouring streams of splendor, as in the boisterous ending of the aforesaid, “Mary is Mary.” All of these small touches make for an impressive attention to detail.

In particular, the ending song, “Sight, Flight” is an outstanding closer. A foreboding guitar conjures up a menacing melody and Wasner’s voice sounds spookily charming. Again, the drums play the role of foreshadowing, giving hints of an explosion waiting to happen and yet, it waits and waits. Once the strings make their entrance, it’s apparent that we are in for a fitting ride of growing expectation and the hope and want of where it will all take us. Continuing to swell, the drums pound, the piano gets louder, as does everything else, the music becomes disjointed; it’s very simply, what an accomplished composer creates.

It’s nice to know that Merge is able to allow artists like the Wye Oak the opportunity to deliver its music to us. This is exactly what bands that put out a decent debut should look towards. Because music like this is every bit as worthy and great as the other stuff out there. Only, with Wye Oak, its music is keen on development and growth and with a second album as good as The Knot, the future never looked any better.