It never seems fair to judge an album for anything other than its own merits, but this one begs for it. This is the Wye Oak album “with no guitars”, the instrument that helped make 2011’s Civilian one of that year’s best albums.
This dramatic shakeup in the band’s approach has left the music on Shriek sounding like a poor man’s Beach House; all mid-tempo drum beats and repetitive synth patterns. Unfortunately, Wye Oak haven’t changed how they arrange their songs, which means the spaces previously filled with a memorable guitar line are now just empty spaces. That’s not to discredit all the material found here – ‘Glory’, with its fantastic bassline and out-of-nowhere pitch-shift solo, hints at what a synth-driven Wye Oak album should have sounded like. The title track also has such an enthralling melody that nothing else is needed to make it the standout.
Shriek is by no means a disaster. Jenn Wasner’s voice is still dependable and the production is crystal clear. But there’s too much of this type of music out now, making it all seem vaguely like a cash grab.
They’ve taken what made them unique and worthwhile, thrown it away and decided they want to be a small fish in a big pond.
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