Wye Oak sort of snuck-released their fifth full-length album Tween like it was an audible called at the last second, and boy, am I ever a sucker for surprise plays. There’s few bands who can pull off the out-of-nowhere release, and even with a duo as talented as Wye Oak I am worried that this brief collection of in-betweener tracks will get lost in the shuffle. We cannot let that happen. Tween is a bright sunburst of woozy post-rock muffled pop, zig-zag harmonies squished into daydream shapes. The best dream on here is a track that decries its own lovely reverie, “No Dreaming” a slow-building, plucky melody that’s overtaken by Jenn Wasner’s smoky alto about a minute in, and turns into a technicolor lament after another thirty seconds or so.
The song operates a bit like a thunderstorm, with a light drizzle of rain that grows thicker and darker until the sky is black and thunder and lightning are crackling above, but you’re so caught up in watching it unfold that you don’t even mind or notice that you’re getting drenched. Tween may be about the band’s own trajectory, but it’s the kind of record that helps you spot the gaps in your own heart, what holes can be patched up, what edges need a quick stitch or two before you move forward. The first time I pressed play on it I didn’t even hear tracks four through eight until the next day, because I was stuck listening to “No Dreaming” on repeat for several hours. It’s a slippery quicksand of warped pop that won’t let you go, it’s a lit-up sky amid the storm; it is a whirlwind, that will floor you, envelop you, and jolt you back into the real world. It’s the kind of song that will gently shake you out of your mire, it will help you grow up, even if you didn’t know you still needed to do that. No more dreaming, we’re going to live them now.—Caitlin White
“I Wish You Were Here” — Charles Kelley ft. Miranda Lambert
There’s a much more famous song than any that Charles Kelley or Miranda Lambert have written that rings with the same primary line, and most songs would be undone by that Pink Floyd comparison. Not this one. Over honeyed, finger-picking Kelley laments life on the road without love in freeway poetry and traveling malaise that will ring true to anyone whose ever toured the country–and even those who haven’t. Just because The Driver is a short collection of songs about what it means to be a country musician in 2016 doesn’t mean these tracks don’t transcend their outlines, and “a million miles to touch your skin” will resonate with anyone separated from a lover for even a day, even a second. There’s nothing overtly sexual about the track–though it’s talking about the deepest intimacy–instead, it’s the act of sleeping next to someone that is held up as the pinnacle of desire–and after all, isn’t it? There is no greater pleasure than waking up to feel the body of the person you love the most in the world right next to you, peaceful and sweet in the embrace of sleep. “I wish you were here / Sleeping on my shoulder / Breathing my air” Lambert and Kelley sing in harmony, pinning the entire communion of romance on a single breathe, a single night’s sleep. It’s enough to make you muffle a sob thinking about how much you ache for the one you love, even if you don’t actually have anyone to miss.—Caitlin White