By: Dennis Cook
Tinkling hand percussion and prickly guitar explosions, siren voices and thick drums, If Children (released April 8 on Merge Records) stirs a lively witch's brew, elemental extremes finding common ground in the hands of Wye Oak's multi-instrumentalist singers Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. Whether disturbing Elliott Smith's ghost on "Regret" or working some new millennial "Kashmir" on "Please Concrete," there's always plenty of alluring details to hang your ear on. A number of cuts end abruptly and we're quickly off in a different direction. Rather than being disorienting, it's all pretty engaging. Wasner and Stack are especially gifted at simmering melancholy (Archaic Smile," "Keeping Company"), truly some of the best sit-alone-in-your-room music this year, neither mopey nor obvious but full of interesting stutter steps like quality Ronnie Lane (who they evoke marvelously on "A Lawn To Mow"). As oddly catchy as Spoon in places and intimate and gorgeous as This Mortal Coil others, Wye Oak throws out a whole rock rainbow. While their own distinct colors have yet to fully reveal themselves it's a pretty nice skyline nonetheless.