NOT-SO-QUAINT FOLK WYE OAK — ‘The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs’
THE GOOD: Maryland indie duo Wye Oak comes back with a buzzing, crackling sixth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: What began as a modern, folk-tinged project has slowly morphed into something completely dissimilar over the past three albums. Rather than play it safe, guitarist/vocalist Jenn Wasner and drummer/keyboardist Andy Stack have left much of their acoustic leanings behind in favor of more electric guitars, tougher rhythms and more dominant synthesizers (some abrasive at times).
Harsher? Perhaps, but the music still emotionally resonates. Here, songs such as the delicately flowing “Lifer,” the melodic and dreamy “Over and Over” and the punchy title track resemble the early stuff in composition. However, their execution is radically different. Skip from 2009’s “The Knot” immediately to this new release, and you’d swear this was an electronic-leaning rock act trying to BE Wye Oak as opposed to the genuine article. However, the pair continues to make this ongoing sweeping transition run smoothly.
BUY IT?: Yes.
OKKERVIL RIVER — ‘In the Rainbow Rain’
THE GOOD: Modern folk/rock outfit Okkervil River comes back with its ninth.
THE BAD: Every album has its highs and lows, inspired moments and bits that drag. “Rain” follows this pattern.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Okkervil River has always been a proper band, but the only permanent member is singer/songwriter Will Sheff. Every record finds the man telling stories and getting introspective about his past. “Rain” kicks off with the clever “Famous Tracheotomies,” a track recalling Sheff’s own life-threatening surgery that occurred when he was just an infant. As the song plays on, we hear of other famous people who underwent similar procedures, Motown’s Mary Wells and Kinks frontman Ray Davies among them.
From there, moods shift from the top-heavy pop of “Pulled up the Ribbon” to the somber “Human Being Song.” Some tracks immediately click; others are slow burns. No DUDS though. Sheff covers emotional territories that are immediately relatable, and his songs are just distinct enough to not melt into one another.
BUY IT?: Sure.
S. CAREY — ‘Hundred Acres’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter and Bon Iver drummer Sean Carey releases his third solo full-length.
THE BAD: No gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Carey’s profile has risen during the past decade. He’s no longer “that dude from Bon Iver who occasionally goes solo.” Now, he’s S. Carey, “the man who still plays with Bon Iver even though a solo career wouldn’t be out of the question.”
“Hundred Acres” feels like a genuine effort to maybe go in that very direction. The album is the most accessible of his career, with Carey abandoning some weird percussive habits in exchange for lush melodies, cozy harmonies and warm strings. Lyrically, the man keeps matters close to home; relatable relationships and simple pleasures are not uncommon.
Carey also realizes “less is more.” “Hundred Acres” sticks around just long enough (10 tunes in 38 minutes) to avoid the trappings of tedium. Moods and tempos rarely change, but the momentum never dissipates. There’s nothing wrong with a pleasant visit now and then.
BUY IT?: Sure.