album reviews

Wye Oak
The Knot
Merge (2009)

Kindred spirits: Yo La Tengo, Mazzy Star, Beach House

Baltimore duo Wye Oak relies on the serene vocals and guitar work of Jenn Wasner and the understated drumming of Andy Stack. But the two still manage to create lush, dreamy atmospheres, and their second album, "The Knot," is further enhanced by intermittent strings, especially on the up-tempo "I Want for Nothing."

Wasner's lulling, floating vocals are reminiscent of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and the Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins. With its sometimes indistinguishable lyrics, Wye Oak's music is more like a watercolor than a photo-realist painting: Specific words or riffs don't matter nearly as much as the trancelike, wistful mood created.

Because of its hushed croons and repetition, "The Knot" can sound a little sleepy from time to time, especially on the longer tracks. The 7 1/2 -minute "Mary Is Mary" drags right from the start with its slow sparseness; the song never engages, despite Wasner's creepy lyrics ("They found your body in my back yard"). But that's nothing that couldn't be fixed with a little editing.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 25 December 2009
.: The Knot on