06 September 2010

review: Wye Oak- My Neighbor/My Creator EP

Originally Published at The Blue Indian on September 6, 2010.

On the heels of their stout sophomore release, The Knot (via Merge Records), Baltimore duo Wye Oak comes with a short set of holdovers and redos that might have made the original even stronger.  Sandwiched between the co-title tracks, Emmylou can be described as more of an anchor than just a “stroke mark.”  Its rollicking guitar from the initial click-in and fuzzed vocal harmonies soundtrack the odd territory the band inhabits (they get their name from the official Maryland state tree).  Such is the mid-Atlantic: hinting at the deep-fried drawl of the Carolinas, yet deeply related to the port-laden, bustling, caustic North.

This identity, not mistaken but certainly fitful, plays itself out in the finale, a remix of a track from the previous LP, That I Do.  The serenity of the original gets disrupted by bassy, police-siren bombast and chill rap verse.  Only the city like Baltimore, home of the mean streets shown on the Wire and the sullen fandom for basement-dwelling Orioles and jilted Unitas supporters, could produce such an ex-lover mash-up track.
This juxtaposition is fitting and the dischord finds perhaps its most clear lyrical home back in a verse from Emmylou.  Jenn Wasner whirs:

“I believe in commonsense
And meaningless coincidence.
But I don’t believe in heaven
So I have to have you now.”

Such honesty and urgency can be both blessing and curse.  This set of neatly organized B-sides spends its nearly 18 minutes trying to figure out which is which.  It is no wonder these songs provide neither tidy love swoons nor direct “screw you’s,” but rather more complicated ruminations on relationships and rupture, fight and flight, certainty and insecurity, devotion and distance.

Rating: 8.5/10

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