Archive for Wye Oak

Were Brian Eno and Robert Fripp The Artists Of The Year?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, 35mm Summilux, With Floating Element

It seems odd that so much of the music we listened to this year had one critical link in common: it made us think of Eno and Fripp.  Not in any general way, but specifically, as so many of the year’s best songs could be linked to something Eno produced with his chum long, long ago.

The pattern started early.  In January, when Wye Oak’s Civilian was released, the song we listened to the most was “The Altar” — which sounded like it was recorded about ten minutes after Fripp laid down his solo on Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” on Another Green World.

We have loved albums by A.A. Bondy, Kurt Vile, and The War On Drugs — all of which seemed like they’d been recorded under the influence of, in particular, Eno and Fripp’s Evening Star.  It was as if the most familiar touchstone for ambient music was that one incredible moment when Eno and Fripp lulled away migraines with soft waves lapping from a placid sea.

Near the end of the year, we got into Atlas Sound, the highly interesting side-project by Deerhunter front man Bradford Cox.  His song “Doldrums” sounds like he just added vocals to a track laid down by his forebears.

Weird.  In a year notable for the originality of so many artists — White Denim, for example — all roads seem to lead back to Fripp and Eno.  It was as if Evening Star was the point to which all compasses were raised.

Tulip Frenzy’s #10 Album of 2011: Wye Oak’s “Civilian”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

When Wye Oak’s Civilian was released early in the year, we wrote that it was “a band so ambitious that it’s produced its (first) masterpiece while there are still no more than five rings around its arboreal trunk.”  An album as delicate as early Eno, as powerful as Sonic Youth, Civilian disproved the rule that two-person bands suffer from limitations.  Of course, it helps that Andy Stack plays the Centaur’s game — half drummer, half bass player — and that Jenn Wasner sings and strums like a one-woman army.  Civilian may have been demilitarized, but it packed a delicate wallop.

Wye Oak Blossoms With “Civilian”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on March 9, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Baltimore’s Wye Oak is a band so ambitious that it’s produced its (first) masterpiece while there are still no more than five rings around its arboreal trunk.  Civilian builds on 2009’s The Knot in unexpected ways, and reveals that The Decemberists choosing of Wye Oak as the opening act on its winter tour was recognition of a sapling now grown into a mighty tree.

We’ve never been big fans of two-person bands, from the Method Actors to the White Stripes, because live the sound of drums and guitar without the flaps tied down by the bass imperfectly protects the music from the buffeting of sonic wind.  But Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack aren’t just ambitious, they’re visionaries too, and rather than compromise with a third musician, they’ve come to the Centaur’s solution of having Stack play both drums and bass (keyboard.)  Um, at the same time.  At the Beacon Theater in January, when they opened for The Decemberists, we marveled at how well it worked, Stack holding down, if not a heavy bottom, at least a sufficiency of rhythm, one arm bashing the drum kit, the other stretched to the keyboard.  We’re guessing he’s also good at simultaneous translations of English to Mandarin, can program in C++, and never was bored as a child, since he could play catch without needing another kid to come over.

Wasner can also do circus tricks.  She can strum like Peter Buck and head into Distortionland like Thurston Moore.  On perhaps Civilian‘s most brilliant song, “The Alter,” Wasner embellishes upon Air’s “Surfing On A Rocket,” which itself was a take on Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire,with a sudden efflorescence into Frippertronics.  Wow.  We dare you to listen to “The Alter” and not go download this whole amazing album.  Wasner’s voice starts in Lida Husick alto depths, and can maybe range a little too far into Cranberries territory, but the effect of her singing, the mastery of  her guitar textures, and Andy Stack’s utility infielding should, with Civilian, introduce the proverbial wider audience to the charms of The Free State’s greatest gift to music since David Byrne.

Unfortunately their show Friday night at the Black Cat is sold out.  (Although for those of us with day jobs going to see Mary Timony play in Wild Flag Thursday night, maybe that’s a blessing.)  This isn’t the last chance we’ll have to see Wye Oak, though next time it’s likely them headlining at The Beacon.  Amazing.

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