Wye Oak is a band of separation and reconnection. Bandmates Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack are divided by over 1,500 miles (Durham, NC to Marfa, TX, respectively), meeting back to write and record. Forgoing the recording methods of previous albums, the duo approached their latest release with a freer process, allowing them to delve further into the toolbox they’ve built in their decade-long career. The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is an exploration of personal reconciliation and the search for power in a life of compromised expectations.
If the sequences and synthesizers of 2014’s Shriek was Wye Oak’s greatest departure, The Louder I Call confidently takes up more space in that change of form. After the introduction of “(Tuning)”, we are met with “Instrument”, equal parts spiraling synth loops and bombastic chords. The end result is effervescent and finds fun between moments of dissonance. The title track is staccato-punched pop flirting with willful ignorance while simultaneously keeping eyes over the shoulder: “Like any other day / we will make the bed / thinking it is dead / It is finally dead.” It’s hard to imagine these songs coming from them were we able to hear them five years ago.
“Lifer” sonically resembles much of what listeners have come to know from the band, but Wasner makes full use of this comfort zone to make some of her largest lyrical declarations in the band’s decade-long career: “The end is kind, the mean is cruel / I have to love the life I make, / make up for all the space I take.” Reconciling success amongst peers can be difficult, and Wasner acknowledges privilege while openly figuring out how to use that for good. Long tonal strokes are the backdrop of these confessions, and the bridge is just as much an avowal to taking advantage of life’s luck as the lyrics. This vulnerability occupies an anxious space between audacity and modesty, fearful of hitting either edge.
There are few bands that exude the confidence that Wye Oak demonstrates with every new release. Their approach may constantly change, but no matter the strategy, it is impressive that they always get their best foot forward. “Symmetry”, the album’s most synth-drenched song top- to-bottom, is a delightfully tenacious spin of bubbly production work, but seems familiar to their past songs. “Say Hello” resembles a lot of the folk-influenced singing of Civilian, built on top of a U2 riff and vocal layering; it is the best example of Wye Oak’s past and current top forms intersecting.
Louder I Call is overall not a departure musically, but thematically, it is an expression of resolution that we have never heard from them. It is not their most cohesive album, nor is it intended to be. Every song together is a testament that sometimes it’s okay to let life happen to you as opposed to approaching every day with attack. Current times are tumultuous, and part of the process of change is acknowledgement, and Wasner’s lyrics make space for that. The album’s closing track, “I Know It’s Real”, croons and builds voice, but ends rather abruptly; to connect, there must be separation.