May 11, 2011

New Music: Wye Oak, Chad VanGaalen

Of all the stuff I've been listening to over the last month it was Wye Oak's new album Civilian, in particular, that carried me through to the end of the semester. It's a soothing, satisfying record: cohesive and gentle, but incredibly cathartic and uncompromising at the same time. It's the kind of record, in other words, that you'll want to listen to all the way through. This is going to sound like the worst kind of cliche, but for me, Wye Oak have found a paradoxical balance, the fullest expression of which can be found in the alt-rock of the early 90s (I have no problem admitting that the closer an album comes to mapping fragility and aggression simultaneously--like, say, Siamese Dream or Rid of Me--the more likely I am to embrace it). So it's a little creepy how much this album seems suited to my tastes.  Wye Oak's second proper LP highlights a stunning vocalist (Jenn Wasner), ample feedback, grungy breakdowns and lyrics with vaguely religious themes. For instance, there seems to be an ongoing dialectic between Creation and Evolution in Wasner's lyrics that's oddly compelling. Musically, things appear relatively stripped down (the band performs as a two-piece), but every so often Wye Oak's sound becomes incredibly expansive. I've posted my favourite track ("Dog Eyes") below. It rocks pretty hard.

 I've also been enjoying Chad VanGaalen's latest (fourth, I guess) album, Diaper Island. It appears to be tied together by themes of domestic life, but no worries: there's still plenty of weird stuff going on. Musically, however, it's significantly more well-behaved than his previous albums. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially for those of us who loved Women's Public Strain (produced by Chad last year). Most of the press surrounding the album has emphasized its straight forward rock aesthetic, but Chad's been toeing that line as long as he's been putting out records. He's reported to have submitted over three albums worth of post-Soft Airplane material to Sub Pop for this album, so we'll have plenty of b-sides to look forward to. The record is out May 17, and is currently available for streaming via Paste. I've devoted a lot of time to Chad's previous records, so I'm not going to get ahead of myself and call this his best; then again, I'm not going to pretend that Diaper Island isn't awesome, and I'm sure I'll be posting on it again. The song below is a real stunner. This ain't Bob Dylan's "Sara."

I should probably also mention some of the big guns.

Yes, Panda Bear's Tomboy makes good on the hype, and, personally, I think it betters 2007's Person Pitch. While we're speaking of albums that improve on their predecessors, I've also been enjoying the latest effort from Seattle's Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues) and tUnEyArDs' (yes, the mixed cases are intentional) second album, w h o k i l l. In the coming weeks, I'll be looking forward to new music from the Antlers, Wild Beasts, and Gang Gang Dance.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Jon. These are my favorite tracks from these records as well. I can't help but wonder what 'Dog's Eyes' would sound like if given to Steve Albini. I bet pretty awesome.

    Tomboy > Person Pitch? I'm not convinced at all. Maybe I should give the record another try (I wouldn't say I hated it, but I definitely didn't love it).