Infinite Shuffle

September 27, 2011

84 – Wye Oak

Filed under: Baltimore, W — assman41 @ 4:43 pm

When I first saw Wye Oak perform at SXSW earlier this year, I described their style as something along the lines of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. — even though I’ve never really listened to a ton of stuff from either band.

Apparently, I must not have been too far off, since they played the songs of Dinosaur Jr. during a special tribute show a few months ago.

But after finally listening to all of their albums several times through, I realize Wye Oak’s sound is much deeper and more complex. Mike Powell of Pitchfork described it best in his review of the band’s debut release, If Children …

“… earnest folk-influenced indie rock with touches of noise and dream-pop.”

Wye Oak – I Don\’t Feel Young

Named after the former state tree of Maryland, Wye Oak is the Baltimore duo of Andy Stack (drums, keyboards, backup vocals) and Jenn Wasner (vocals, guitars).

The formed in 2006 under the name Monarch before eventually changing their moniker. The released their debut independently in 2007 and re-released it a year later after signing with Merge Records. Their second release, The Knot, came out in 2009, followed by an EP, My Neighbor/My Creator, in 2010 and a third full-length album, Civilian, earlier this year.

There really aren’t any bad tracks on any of Wye Oak’s albums, but the latest release might be the most solid all the way through. My favorite tracks include “The Alter”, “Holy Holy”, “Dogs’ Eyes” and “Fish”.

Wye Oak – Holy Holy

I just discovered that the band will be in Chicago on Dec. 6 as a supporting act — along with Local Natives — for The National, one of my favorite bands. I very much want to go to this show.

For now, go listen to some tunes at their MySpace page.

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November 23, 2010

52 – Lower Dens

Filed under: Baltimore, L — assman41 @ 12:17 am

Sometimes when I review a band, I’ll make some comparisons to other bands that are tenuous at best. This review, however, is not one of those instances.

When I first heard Lower Dens, there was no mistaking their similarities to fellow post-punk, electro-drone bands Wild Nothing and The XX.

In fact, after hearing the Lower Dens’ debut full-length release, Twin-Hand Movement, I immediately added them to my “Trance” playlist that includes the two aforementioned bands — as well as Zola Jesus. The soft vocals, slow pace and fuzzy guitars are a perfect accompaniment to an evening on the couch.

While I’d say they probably lean more toward Wild Nothing’s sound, you can hear elements of The XX throughout as well. Here’s a great example of both:

This Baltimore-based four-piece formed in early 2009 when vocalist Jana Hunter — she of many varied solo and group projects — set about finding a full-time band. Their first album hit the streets this past July.

I had seen their name here and there but had not heard any music until their ditty, “Blue & Silver”, was included on a recent NPR All Songs Considered podcast. I knew immediately that I needed to hear more.

Other strong tracks include “Completely Golden”, “I Get Nervous” and “Hospice Gates”

The group is touring in Europe right now, but its heading back to the States in January for a few shows in the Mid-Atlantic. Keep an eye on the band’s official website to see if it’s headed your way.

And if you’re really digging Lower Dens, you can check out the Tiny Desk Concert they did at NPR.

February 28, 2010

17 – Beach House

Filed under: B, Baltimore — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Now that all the end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade fervor has subsided, we’re already starting to see some recent releases being touted by the indie tastemakers as early front-runners for “top album of 2010.”

The most ballyhooed is Contra by Vampire Weekend. But another that has been receiving plenty of love is Beach House’s Teen Dream.

It’s the third full-length release from the Baltimore-based dream pop duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. I’d listened to their second album, Devotion, once and wasn’t necessarily floored. Couple that with the fact that they’ve been so hyped by Pitchfork and its brethren, and I found myself growing to resent Beach House a little.

I decided I should give their entire catalogue a listen before I officially passed judgement.

Their self-titled debut dropped in October 2006, followed by Devotion in February 2008. The two albums sound pretty similar — heavy on the atmospheric rhythms and haunting lyrics but lacking much variation.

So it didn’t bode well for Teen Dream as far as I was concerned. However, early on it becomes clear that Beach House’s sound has evolved during the past couple years.

I’m not a musician, so I can’t always describe what I’m hearing, but Teen Dream definitely seems to have a lot more going on than the two earlier albums. The songs are more complex and more filled-out.

The first single, “Norway“, was somewhat bittersweet for me. It’s a solid little ditty from the opening accordion note — which, by the way, called to mind both the Sea Wolf single, “Winter Windows“, and just about any Decemberists song.

The problem with “Norway” is that it sounds so much like “Ghost Under Rocks” by Ra Ra Riot, that I couldn’t get the latter out of my head and kept waiting for the song to transition accordingly.

Thankfully, the next track on the album, “Walk In the Park”, turned out to be my favorite and helped erase some of the bitterness of the preceding song.

The rest of the album is also pretty solid, and, as a whole, Teen Dream probably deserves much of the praise it has been receiving.

So, what have we learned today?

Teen Dream? Good.

Resentment? Bad.

Beach House – Walk In The Park

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