Wasner went up on stage with a guitar, pedals, and a MacBook. The computer did its job, and, luckily, aside from one or two moments of overwhelmingly layered, pre-recorded stuff, it was a small one. The live part of the performance would have sufficed alone—Wasner fingerpicked electric guitar distortion into vibrant, breathing walls of sound and howled in cascading vocal melodies. “I’m not going to have a voice for a week,” Wasner croaked between songs.
Not too long ago, most of Wasner’s vocals remained soft, doubled and buried in the mix on Wye Oak's 2008 debut. But Wasner's voice emerged stronger and more clarified than ever on the last record, the critical 2011 favorite, Civilian. Perhaps that's what lent the album its new edge, what gave the magnetic dark that already existed in Wye Oak songs more irresistible pull. Most of the music from Flock of Dimes felt like unfinished Wye Oak songs for this new vision, with all their grit and intricacy dialed up on high.
Aside from the darkness of the music, Wasner stayed light and self-deprecatingly clever throughout her set, thanking the audience for coming to listen to her “weird little pop song thing.” True, parts were poppy—especially one song that Wasner had dedicated to Robyn, the Swedish popstar, when she put down the guitar and relied only on the mic and the computer. But whatever a pop song means to Jenn Wasner is not what it means to the rest of us. Even at its neatest, Flock of Dimes maintained a moody western gothic—as much “pop," as Tim Burton animations might be “children’s movies.”
Wasner ended up playing just under ten songs, including one she called “a rip-off of The Cocteau Twins” (which didn’t really sound like a rip-off of The Cocteau Twins at all), and that first energetic and eerie track she put up on Soundcloud ten months ago, “Prison Bride.” Hopefully, the rest of the unnamed setlist becomes an album soon. Even in its slightly awkward, current working state, Flock of Dimes yields more wholeness and promise than most full-on, four-on-the-floor bands with finished songs to shill. Give us a full-length, Wasner. We’re ready for it.
You can follow Sydney Brownstone on Twitter @sydbrownstone