Friday, May 14, 2010

Wye Oak: My Neighbor/My Creator

spectrum culture,
Wye Oak

My Neighbor/My Creator

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Label: Merge

My Neighbor/My Creator is a good example of why it's difficult to get overly fired up about many EPs; neither amazing nor abysmal, it's simply five decent songs long on execution and studio mastery, but short on innovation. Wye Oak's latest uncomfortably exists in some sort of bizarro middle ground for the Baltimore duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack; it's neither a major step back from 2007's If Children nor a tiny improvement over 2009's mostly bland The Knot. It's just there; unobtrusive but also unremarkable, it's hard to imagine anyone but the band's most loyal fans meeting this release with anything more than an indifferent shrug and a few impossible-to-conceal yawns.

Don't get me wrong- My Neighbor/My Creator is a pleasant listen and there are certainly worse ways listeners can spend their time (here's one). The band's indie-folk-rock-dream-synth-pop-Yo La Tengo hybrid is again on display, augmented with some sweet, sweet sax, Wasner's vocals - which can sound as brittle as old bones, supremely confident or implicitly threatening - various studio wizardry and layers of percussion. "My Neighbor" is a rollicking opener, offering up an ear worm-worthy arrangement and vocals reminiscent of Neko Case, while the dodgy opening of "Emmylou" is almost saved by a dandy little harmonica workout later in the song. "My Creator" and "I Hope You Die" mix the duo's balladeer sensibilities with an apparent desire to use every gadget and gizmo in the studio; at the very least producers Chris and Mickey Freeland made their mark on these two tracks. Solid songs one and all, without a doubt, but none are particularly exceptional and feel increasingly hollow with repeated listens; frankly I can't imagine myself ever wanting to hear an album's worth of this stuff.

The album closes with a remix of The Knot's "That I Do," complete with various blips, bleeps, sirens and other sounds worthy of Ross Geller at his mini-keyboard and a rap that's more awkward than a morning-after walk of shame. It's a curiosity piece for the band's fans - and completely underwhelming save for its novelty value. Props to the band for moving outside their comfort zone on this track, and on other parts of this EP. Still, likably mediocre songs only count for so much; the music's got to have some spark and some kick in it, both of which are in short supply throughout My Neighbor/My Creator.

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