Wye Oak

Tween

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Between the time of their rock-solid 2011 indie rock album Civilian and their breakthrough Shriek, which set aside their guitar-heavy sound in favor of synths and modern R&B beats, Wye Oak recorded a lot of songs that didn't find a home. Arriving in 2016, Tween gathers up these side trips and diversions and gives them a home. The eight songs find Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack experimenting with different sounds, styles, and approaches, yet it all fits together to become one of their more impressive releases. It certainly shows that Wasner is at home singing just about any style one might throw at her. She sounds equally as good on the Cocteau Twins-style dream pop ballad "If You Should See" as she does on the rambling electro-folk song "Watching the Waiting." For the most part, the album leans toward the sound of the duo on Shriek -- there are lots of keyboards and programmed drums here -- but it's not fully formed yet and that makes it interesting, especially on the songs that suggest directions they could have taken and ended up sounding great. The opening deep-space shoegaze of "Out of Nowhere" is probably the best example of this. The less interesting songs seem more like Civilian outtakes. It's pretty clear Wye Oak were trying to move forward, and they don't sound comfortable on tracks like the overlong "Too Right," which seems to be heading in a blues-with-sound-effects direction that they luckily never pursued. This scattershot feel makes Tween something mainly for die-hard Wye Oak fans who want a peek behind the curtain, or for anyone curious about how they managed to make the daring stylistic leap from Civilian to Shriek.

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