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The Knot

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Album Review

Wye Oak's second album follows the same basic blueprint as their first album. The Knot is straight-up indie rock with no surprises, but just enough inspiration to keep it from being strictly derivative. The duo (Jenn Wasner on guitar and vocals, Andy Stack on drums and the occasional vocal or keyboard) uses many trademark tricks of '90s indie rock like quiet verses/loud choruses, dynamic builds that end in guitar freakouts, and vocals buried in the mix. The '90s vibe is also heightened by Wasner's vocal similarities to Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo and the organic production that sounds like it could have (and maybe was) done on reel-to-reel tape rather than a computer. It gives the album a warm, intimate feel that only occasionally sounds a little murky around the edges. What the band adds to the equation is the soul that Wasner pours into her singing (and most likely her lyrics, though they are often difficult to make out). It sounds like there is a fair amount of hurt behind the songs on The Knot, and her hushed delivery of the vocals draws the listener in closer. They also wrote some songs that would stand toe to toe with the best music of the era they so clearly love; the lilting "Siamese" sounds like a lost YLT album track, the chugging "Tattoo" benefits from an excellent vocal line sung in harmony by the pair, and "I Want for Nothing" sounds like the kind of sweet and moving song Madder Rose wanted to record but never quite could. What keeps the entire record from being great, or at least the equal of their indie rock heroes, is the uneven quality of the songs. Too many are formulaic and hook-free, like "For Prayer," which rides the quiet/loud hook too hard, or the overlong "Mary Is Mary," which clearly aims to be epic but falls more in the merely lengthy category. Another problem is the lack of vocals from Stack; part of the success of the first album derived from the male/female vocal dynamic. The lack of it here takes some of the interest and variety out of the band's sound. Still, the record isn't a failure by any stretch; there is enough going on to make it at least worth a listen or two if you love the sound of 1990s American indie rock as much as Wye Oak do.


Formed: 2006 in Baltimore, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Wye Oak, a Baltimore-based indie rock duo comprising Jenn Wasner (guitar, vocals) and Andy Stack (drums, keyboards, vocals), took their name from a symbolic 460-year-old tree in their home state of Maryland. Formed in 2006 under the moniker Monarch, Wasner and Stack recorded their first album in varied spots, bouncing around various basements and apartments, eventually landing a record deal with indie heavyweight Merge. The label would go on to release the act's 2008 debut, If Children, as well as...
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The Knot, Wye Oak
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