Baltimore-based indie rock group Wye Oak played the Ottobar this past Saturday. During the opening moments of their set, they announced that they were done recording their newest album, and they also attached a tentative release date of early 2018.
The indie rock duo was formed in 2006 and comprises multi-instrumentalists Jenn Wasner (who also does vocals and performs solo under the name, Flock of Dimes) and Andy Stack (who usually handles percussion).
The band is signed to Merge Records and has released multiple critically acclaimed albums, including their breakthrough Civilian in 2011 and Shriek in 2014, which saw the band take a more electronic approach to their sound.
Wye Oaks’ latest studio album Tween was released in 2016 and featured all songs that were repurposed from previous recording and writing sessions for their previous two records.
Leading up to the show there were rumors that the band had new material in the works, and that some of the new songs on the album would be played during the show.
Much to the excitement of the crowd, although Wye Oak played some older songs (as well as some weirder stuff), the vast majority of the songs were newer.
These songs included, “You Ain’t No Natural” which saw a bit of a change in direction for the band.
It is a bass-driven song, the lyrics revolving around the chorus with Wasner singing, “You ain’t no natural” in a soft voice that seemed in a way to counter the slow funky feeling of the song, but it works nonetheless.
“Do You Think Life Will Be Better” was also a new track they performed and mentioned to be on the tracklist for their upcoming release.
“I Know It’s Real,” another new track that the band noted is their forthcoming album’s closing song uses a slow tempo similar to some of Wye Oak’s best work, including “Civilian” (off the album of the same name) which the band also played.
Finally the band mentioned “Spiral,” which may be another track that could find its way onto the final tracklist for the album, although it has already been released as the A-side of their newest single “Spiral/Wave Is Not The Water.”
The band also opened with “Wave Is Not the Water.”
Throughout the show, the most distinctive aspects of their performance were how powerful Wasner’s voice was and how good the chemistry between the pair was.
Wasner belted the lyrics as her voice carried gracefully throughout the Ottobar and tied the multiple songs they performed together.
There’s also the fact that Wasner mentioned that she had a cold halfway through the show, something I couldn’t notice from the quality of her singing.
Their interactions with one another felt carefree, not to say that there was a lack of effort, more so that this was a homecoming for them and they performed accordingly.
Another noteworthy performance was that of “The Tower” from their 2014 album Shriek.
Most of the songs went back to their guitar-driven roots, but the electronic sounds of “The Tower” eked their way onto the setlist.
After closing out their set the band left the stage, only to be showered with shouts of encore before they returned.
The two highlights of this encore was an impromptu cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote” with Wasner working her way through the lyrics quickly (though she did stumble a few times).
Wasner’s mom was also in the audience and the entire crowd sang happy birthday for her before the band played their final song, “For Prayer” from 2009’s The Knot, an oldie but a goodie.
More cheers followed as the band left the stage and Wye Oak’s seemingly annual sold-out performance at the Ottobar came to a close with the same fanfare that it started with as everyone closed out their bar tabs, drank the last of their Boh and tried to make the rest of the Friday night worth a little something.
Wye Oak ‘s brand of indie rock has stood the test of time that several other Baltimore bands couldn’t.
Their tenure as one of the most well-established bands from the City has continued uninterrupted, even while other acts like Ponytail, Double Dagger and Dope Body have fallen out of the spotlight.
Yet Wye Oak has perservered for a little over a decade, and it showed at their performance. Even the smallest intricacies were polished to perfection.