US - Maryland - Full Moon 246 - 09/16/16
Merge Records (US) / City Slang (EU)
'The word "tween" implies a certain, very specific kind of awkwardness, and those implications are rarely positive. But think about it like
this: Something "tween" is in the process of becoming something else, and there's a very specific kind of beauty in that becoming. There's something rewarding in recognizing and celebrating
it - in meeting it halfway.' (Merge Records).
Maryland duo Wye Oak - Jenn Wasner (lead vocals, guitars) and Andy Stack (synthesizer, piano, drums, percussion) - are back with their fifth album so far since their self-released debut
album, If Children (2007, later to be re-released by Merge in 2008). Tween comes some two years after their last album, Shriek. This new
record was launched physically in early August, after a digital pre-launch three months ago. However, the songs included are much older, as these eight tracks are from the years 2011-2014,
from the Civilian (2011) and Shriek (2014) song-writing/recording period. As the twosome states, these songs were 'written, scrapped,
and re-purposed'. Old (well, not that old...) in-between songs, 're-purposed' for this new album. Wasner and Stack have described the Tween songs as
'not emblematic of a step forward, but a step sideways in time.' In fact, this is Wye Oak's album number 4 1/2.
According to Merge, 'these are no castaways or cutouts. In fact, pound for pound, Tween might actually be more directly accessible than
Shriek.' Well, to this I can agree. The Tween songs are, if not immediately catchy and hummable, somewhat more straightforward and less introvert than most of the Shriek
tracks. That said, Wye Oak operate within a dreamy, blurred pop landscape - despite one of their song titles, "No Dreaming". Stack and Wasner know how to create floating dream-pop music.
They know their Cocteau Twins and their shoegaze (Cocteau Twins meets The Besnard Lakes, anyone...?), but they're more of a 'rock band' than say, another Maryland duo, Beach House. Tweens
unveils quite a few neat pop songs, such as "If You Should See", "Better (For Esther)", and "Watching the Waiting". The majestic and mysterious "No Dreaming" is also a fine moment. All in
all, Tweens is good company, despite a couple of more anonymous tracks. Eight songs clocking in at some 35 minutes. The songs which until now have had wrong 'timing
and context', are all both electric and electronic at the same time. 'tween time and place. Enter Wye Oak's comfort zone for some chill and ease.
Copyright © 2016 Howard Popeye