Many of us took the pandemic as a chance to reset, and Wye Oak was no exception. Durhamites by way of Baltimore, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack had made six albums as Wye Oak, a form they were on the point of perfecting with 2018’s The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs, which completed an evolution from categorical indie rock to something more expansive and superb. It was hard to imagine how they would try to top it, so they didn’t.
Instead, in 2020, the duo pivoted to releasing singles at a fairly steady clip. By 2023, they had accumulated enough of them to fill out this compilation album, which leads off with two new songs.
In this consolidated form, the extent to which Wye Oak has left rock music behind is striking.
The genre drives “Fortune” in a low, powerful gear, with an ingeniously spiraling guitar lead as memorable as any hook. It touches the gnarled hymn of “Evergreen” and the dreamy shuffle of “Fear of Heights.” But what prevails is a kind of stylish art folk, whether it’s drawn taut and crashing or slung low at a countrypolitan canter. Huge, translucent basses lap over protractor-drawn guitar shapes, and electronic fields whir in the gaps, as Wasner unpacks her phrases with a slow, mercurial timbre.
Of the new songs, the title track is warm-breezed and sweetened by Alan Good Parker’s pedal steel, while “I Learned It from You” is one of those peculiarly icy yet molten ballads they’ve come to do so well.
But the question remains (at least for those of us whose 20th-century music brains will never fully heal), is Every Day Like the Last the seventh Wye Oak record or not?
It certainly looks like one, yet the piecemeal presentation does make a difference. Each song had to stand alone, so there are no mere contrasts or ligaments, only all-in attempts to capture the Wye Oak spirit, which resolves between the simplest of musical patterns and the world of smoothly relentless change they inhabit.
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