I know Wye Oak’s record, The Knot (Merge, 7/21/09), has been out since late July, but it’s so engrossingly good (I’m talking genius) I must take the time to tell you about it (or at least remind you to pull out your headphones, turn on the music and jump in again).
The very first note on Wye Oak’s The Knot is a bell. Loud and clear. It’s an omen, a sign to wake up and get ready. Then comes the stomp/handclap/footshuffle rhythm and a pair of innocent sounding voices. Harmonies beckon seductively. In comes ebow, Milk and Honey flow, and suddenly you’re completely awash, drowning in huge walls of soundwaves. As quickly as you realize the squall that has hit and you’ve let yourself go to its immensity, like some magical spirit the entire entity retreats, sucked back in to its origin. And there you are. So this record goes. Like stacked Russian dolls, The Knot in its entirety, the precise organization of songs on the album, and each song within its own discreet package all push and pull dramatically, causing your insides to feel like pliable taffy worked hard on a mechanized stretcher. Wye Oak’s play of extreme dipoles entreats enough confusing disarmament to drastically cast off even the most tenacious pretense, thus carving a path direct to emotional center.
Every single song, brilliantly arranged, is a complex nugget, like a cell in possession of the album’s full genetic map, selectively unraveling and aptly reflecting the larger metaphor: one big relationship.
Wicked tambourine, smashing cymbals and grinding guitar swells oppose Jenn Wasner’s hypnotically compelling vocals combined with wavy steel guitar and steady drone in Take It In, while bitter lyrical pills are dispensed (“We are both the same, unwell”; “I’m sorry baby, I don’t care”; “I’ll take it back, I’ll take it in”. For lack of a better description, it feels like vampire love. Siamese, which follows, jerks awareness back and then announces full-moon swoon through a megaphone to the heart. By the 6th song, Mary is Mary, I find myself on guard, waiting for Wye Oak’s sneak attack with a walloping, layered sound mallet which potentially lurks behind the corner of each phrase. The awesome surprise here: a bonk on the head never arrives. All the waiting on edge sufficiently produces a big reserve pool of adrenalin and the niggly involuntary notion that perhaps softening would be okay. Tattoo comes on epic, like Fabio riding a beautiful Palomino bareback on the beach with everyone’s mane flowing in the salty breeze. I suppose it’s the album’s revelatory sex scene. Full-blown, violin-enhanced romance sets in soon after on I Want For Nothing. Feeling high and fancy, the door to That I Do opens and there’s instant recognition of something off kilter in the room. I hate that feeling. Love the song. They get it so right. Fuck. There you are, you know you’re in it, flies and all. Sight, Flight finishes things off inconclusively. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think I feel a little sad. A little stunned. And I don’t want it to be over. I have a feeling that might be just the way Wye Oak intended.
Buy The Knot