finding Wye Oak

On Further Review
by Nick Parker

Having just written a promotional piece advancing Lou Barlow’s show last week (and a review of his album last year for the matter), let me stop the hero worship for a minute and say something quite different about him this time around. I’ve seen him play so many times in the last fifteen years, but this time I realized something about his shows that I had overlooked: Lou Barlow can pick a really great support act.

Lou Barlow lead me down the path to Wye Oak
Tim Broddin photograph

A decade or more ago, in London, I arrived early for a Sebadoh show just in time to see Quasi begin playing the insane dance of drums and keys that is their classic “R&B Transmogrification” to an initially oblivious crowd. It made a hundred tedious support acts drift and disperse from my over-crowded mind. [Editor's note: RSL review of Quasi's American Gong album ran in Feb.]

Years later, back from a long hiatus with Sebadoh, Lou told me with a little pride that he had picked Holland’s The Bent Moustache to support his band on his own. They played a furious and caustic set that night that fitted perfectly with the return to Boston of Sebadoh’s original line-up.

Tonight at The Middle East (9/2) I was shown up again by being introduced to Wye Oak, who I had heard of before only as one of those bands that flicker in and out of your awareness, like something on the edge of your vision which you never have the energy to focus on.

my discovery: the stellar Wye Oak

Wye Oak - For Prayer

I felt a little guilty immediately at this omission, because it was clear from the outset that Wye Oak are a really compelling band. They were a little solemn through much of the set, keen perhaps to underline the fact that they have something remarkable to offer us. The rolling delicacy of Jenn Wasner’s voice made me think of Heartless Bastards' singer Erika Wennerstrom somewhat, but mixed with keys and drums (simultaneously!) from Andy Stack, Wye Oak are certainly not to be dismissed as derivative. [Editor's recommendation: new Heartless Bastards photo set with streaming mp3.]

Wye Oak play very beautiful, dark music that would fit well drifting through the bleary darkness of a festival stage, late at night. Then again, if you can catch them soon you will get the chance to see a band who still have the buzz of two people on the cusp of great things.


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