Wye Oak, July 2014

Wye Oak played a high-energy show at the Belly Up on Wednesday.

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The Baltimore duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack reminded a Belly Up crowd that even two people can generate a huge sound — especially when the members play multiple instruments at once.

Wasner and Stack were in Solana Beach to support their new album, Shriek. The album, designed to be challenging for both the band and their fans, marks a departure for Wye Oak. While the duo’s previous efforts featured dark subject matter alongside crushing guitars, Shriek is bass- and synth-driven, leading to a sunnier, cleaner sound.

Fans got a little concerned this spring when Wasner — who once indicated that the guitar was a limb of her body — announced that she’d grown tired of the limitations of Wye Oak’s sound, and as a result, there’d be no guitar on Shriek. Wasner had taken up electric bass and had written most of the songs — along with Stack — using bass, synth, and drums. It was an understandable artistic choice, and Wasner and Stack should be admired for taking such a risk — and for following a path that they felt was right.

Wasner’s incredible, throaty voice has always been central to Wye Oak’s sound, though, and she comes through as strong as ever on the Shriek. At their show on Wednesday, the duo put on an enthralling performance, and Wasner and Stack seemed energized by the Shriek material. Wasner was in especially good spirits, joking about achieving her dream of sharing a marquee with Kenny Loggins and Jefferson Starship, and then wondering aloud why she chose to pour a whole 16-ounce cup of whiskey for herself.

Both Wasner and Stack are tremendous musicians. Stack’s ability to play drums with one hand and synth/effects with another is something to behold. And Wasner’s seamless shift from guitar to bass proves that she is an expert player with a genuine ear for songwriting. Throughout the show, Wasner switched between the two instruments, also playing keys on several occasions.

Set highlights included songs from Shriek like the album opener “Before,” single “The Tower,” and the album’s title track. Wye Oak also played several songs from past albums, including “Holy Holy” and “Plains” from the O&B best of 2011 album Civilian, and “That I Do,” my favorite track from 2009′s The Knot.

Philadelphia duo Pattern is Movement opened the show. Lead singer/keys player Andrew Thiboldeaux wowed the crowd with his falsetto on tracks from the band’s new self-titled album, as well as on a sublime cover of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” Fun fact: the band sells pillow cases with their faces on them at their shows.

Originally posted on Owlandbear.com

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