WYE OAK > If Children

Named after the official state tree of their native Maryland, Baltimore’s Wye Oak create music with little pastoral pretense on their debut, If Children. Constructing their songs from soft layers of soothing and simmering guitar feedback, soft electric pianos and plaintive male/female vocals, the duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack manage to make even their most emotive songs sound positively placid. Label: Stars
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Named after the official state tree of their native Maryland, Baltimore’s Wye Oak create music with little pastoral pretense on their debut, If Children. Constructing their songs from soft layers of soothing and simmering guitar feedback, soft electric pianos and plaintive male/female vocals, the duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack manage to make even their most emotive songs sound positively placid. Like Yo La Tengo or Mazzy Star, these are songs painted in broad textural strokes and with thick washes of reverb, creating a monochromatic backdrop that makes derivations such as the tumbling power chords of “Orchard Fair” and the whimsical piano pop of “Keeping Company” seem revelatory. But despite the occasional moments of playfulness, this is a thoroughly somber release, with the biting title track piling on layers of hopelessness and self-abuse, every turn growing more sonically calamitous with each bitter admission. Proving they have a sense of humor, the most upbeat track on the album is titled “Obituary.”