Wye Oak - "Spiral"
(Williams Street Records / Adult Swim, 2012)
On August 3rd, while pulling into the parking lot outside the Saints' facility in Metairie to watch an open practice, I heard this song on WTUL and just about lost my shit. I called in and found out who it was, then asked the DJ if he was sure that it was really Wye Oak, since this song is totally different from their normal rustic alt-country sound. He and I talked about how 4AD-ish it was, and I mentioned that it sounded a lot like the album Euphoria by the band Insides. He said he hadn't heard any Insides, but would check them out. The next night, the Oak opened for the dreadful Dirty Projectors at the House Of Blues. I almost went just to see them perform this song, but I couldn't justify the cost of around $30.00, plus I would've lost all respect for myself if I had stood in the same room with the Dirty Projectors or their fanbase.
Wye Oak are named after the state-champion (that means largest) oak tree in Maryland. R.I.P. This song premiered as a free download at Stereogum, which is where I downloaded it, and it is still available there. Singer / guitarist Jenn Wasner said on Stereogum "This track was written specifically for this Adult Swim series, but they didn’t provide any thematic or sonic guidance for the song. A lot of the music I had been working on independently at the time sounded something like this — so I felt like the Adult Swim opportunity was, as a standalone track, a great opportunity to experiment with some of these new sonic and rhythmic ideas in a low-pressure context. The song revolves around the idea of repetition and rhythmic interplay — parts that are fairly minimalist and circular that come together to form an almost hypnotic wash." The song's stuttering ambient marimba finale strikes me as a clear homage to Tortoise's genre-busting "Djed." Check out the passion with which impending indie heartthrob Wasner belted out this song on the same day I first heard it, meaning the night before they played in N.O.:
After seeing that video, I was absolutely kicking myself for not going to the gig. But I'll see them when they come back to N.O. or B.R. as headliners. If they can continue exploring this type of sound, I'd say they'll instantly be the most compelling band in all of indiedom. You could say Wye Oak pulled a reverse Slowdive with this song, considering how Slowdive suddenly went from an electronic dream pop sound to a country-ish sound under their new name Mojave 3 in the mid-'90s. Well, folks, the Oak is the new sheriff in town and they're ready to right Slowjave 3's wrong. My only complaint is that the vocals in "Spiral" are hard to decipher due to the massive amounts of reverb and Wasner's breathy, innovative phrasing, but that actually helps the music to more dreamlike and disorienting. For a not-so-accurate stab at them, go here. I think she sings "Hearts have signed for(?) a contract: Constant contact" and then she definitely sings "You look over my shoulder / Distant, abstract."
Jenn's new project, the hilariously-named Dungeonesse, is a full-on dance/synth thing, so hopefully they'll put out at least a few songs in the same vein as "Spiral."
View the best pic I took at Saints practice that momentous day here.
Tue. 3/12: Got an eye exam from a new doctor and then got contact lenses for the first time in a few years; had been wearing really scratched up old glasses. It was like seeing the world in HD and I was somewhat in shock for the rest of the day / week.
Sat. 3/16: Went to the spring Record Raid and talked to the usual music buddiez but didn't see the person I hoped would be there, so I was pretty depressed the rest of the day. In my haul: School Of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire (2xLP on swirly gray vinyl), Broken Water - Whet (LP on translucent green vinyl), Steve Reich - Reich Remixed (2xLP), Dead Leaf Echo - Truth (EP), Niki And The Dove - Instinct, Crowded House - Temple Of Low Men, Joan Armatrading - Greatest Hits, Frank Ocean - Channel Orange, Toro Y Moi - "So Many Details" promo single, Mary Timony - The Golden Dove, TEEN - In Limbo. Bought some vitamin B-12.
Thur. 3/21: Went to the Alicia Keys / Miguel concert at New Orleans Arena with Em, Ashley, and Ashley's mom. Was stunned at Em's new car that she bought a few days earlier. Almost wore my Glish t-shirt, but donned a long-sleeve shirt at the last minute. Only saw Miguel's last 3 songs due to a ticket snafu, so I dunno if he played my fav. song of his, the future #1 hit "Don't Look Back". He finished with an extended rendition of his mega-hit "Adorn." Saw Hornets star Eric Gordon in the drink line; probably should've shook his hand or something since he will surely leave as a free agent soon. Alicia brought her A-game despite the fact that the arena was about half full. (Everyone on the upper level got a free upgrade to the middle level.) Seeing her perform "Un-Thinkable" while bathed in orange lighting was one of the top 10 concert moments of my life, and I was pleasantly surprised at how berserk the crowd went when she did an old fave of mine, "Diary." Maxwell dueted with her via a pre-recorded video segment shown on the screen behind her. She played for almost 2 hours, meaning about twice as long as when I saw her in '04. Afterwards, I hurried over and absorbed the end of a hushed and beautiful Benoît Pioulard show at the Circle Bar by myself. A rude bartender tried to throw shade when I mentioned the concert I had just seen up the street, but I still stupidly tipped her a dollar.
Fri. 3/22: Decided to do the "be a tourist in your own town" thing... Well, in my previous hometown at least. Went to Barrister's Gallery at its new location on St. Claude (used to be inside of or next to Zeitgeist Theatre on Oretha Castle Haley) and saw some very impressive avant-garde stuff; got a poetry book at Maple Street Book Shop at the N.O. Healing Center; got some cool stuff at Euclid Records (Acetone LP, Cul De Sac 7", Lansing-Dreiden CD); got a thyme plant at Harold's; played basketball at Delgado for 2+ hrs until dark; watched March Madness.
Sat. 3/23: Went to Slidell on a whim and scored a book about Ani Difranco at Goodwill. Man, I had forgotten how much she once meant to me, and how endearingly funny she was/is, but flipping through a few pages in this book brought it rushing back.
Planets with similar climates: Cocteau Twins - "Road, River And Rail" (1990), Insides - "Distractions" (1993), Beach House - "Wild" (2012), Lush - "Undertow" (1993), Twin Sister - "The Other Side Of Your Face" (2010), Grimes - "Be A Body" (2011).