Monday, December 8, 2008

Live: Wye Oak

As I told you, Friday kicked off a whole string of shows highlighting some of the best and some of the trendiest bands of 2008. First up, Wye Oak and Titus Andronicus opening for O'Death at the Bowery Ballroom. I'm going to do something a bit odd and split the review of the show into two posts. (You'll see why when I put up the second one.) So, for now, Wye Oak...

Apparently, when this Baltimore duo played at the CMJ festival in October, everyone there completely lost their shit about how good they were. I, however, wasn't among that audience, so Friday's show was my first real experience with the band. I expected to enjoy them, but not much more. I was worried the one-hand-on-drums-one-hand-on-synth technique might be gimmicky, and in general, I thought I would get something a little low-key for my tastes.

Wye Oak, I stand corrected. Sure, these guys spend some time making the quiet, pretty, folky music I'd been expecting, but then all of a sudden, they rock the fuck out. The balance was just about perfect, and they one of those rare and delightful bands who successfully use contrasting dynamics to propel their songs forward without losing coherence. In other words, Wye Oak blew me away.

Wye Oak (picture from their myspace page)
Wye Oak

I was also struck by both members' technical ability. Jenn Wasner not only sings beautifully, but she can play the hell out of her guitar. Equally talented, Andy Stack managed the superhuman feat of playing synth and drums simultaneously as effectively as if he'd been two people. And it turns out, it wasn't gimmicky at all. In fact, the band drew so little attention to it, I wouldn't be surprised if half the audience never noticed the peculiar set-up.

The entire set was excellent. My only concern was that the new songs were less coherent in their composition than the older ones. I'm hoping this is because the band is still working them out and not because their inspired songwriting is wearing thin. I suppose we'll have to wait for the next release to find out for certain, but I have faith the band will pull through. With this level of talent and passion, how could they not?


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