Release Date: Sep 23, 2016
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
You suspect Jenn Wasner’s hometown roots run deep. Born there, lived and worked there. Wye Oak – her principle artistic vehicle and bread-and-butter for the last eight years or so – was formed there. You suspect, also, that a move from Baltimore to rural North Carolina involves quite some shift in pace, in tone, in intensity (the city, she says, was “eating her alive”).
While balancing her full-time role as one-half of artful indie duo Wye Oak, Jenn Wasner has been quietly dishing out atmospheric bedroom pop singles under the name Flock of Dimes. Flying under the radar since 2010, this solo endeavor finally comes to fruition on If You See Me, Say Yes, her first full-length release with the project. Introspective and warmly meditative, Wasner paints her canvas with gentle, percolating synths, lush harmonies, and clever rhythmic shifts.
Jenn Wasner is best known as the frontwoman of Baltimore indie-rock duo Wye Oak, but over the last few years, she's demonstrated a tendency to transcend genre and other limitations. In 2012, she teamed with songwriter/producer Jon Ehrens as Dungeonesse to release a self-titled album of effervescent dance-pop, even though her main band's previous album (2011's breakout Civilian) was a dark, meaty guitar-rock masterpiece. Even Wye Oak's last two releases have been wildly evolutionary; Shriek saw Wasner move from the guitar to the bass and was firmly steeped in soulful R&B instead of rock, while this year's Tween is a snapshot of the transition period between the two styles.
In some respects, it seems a touch strange that Jenn Wasner should feel the need for a side project at all. It doesn’t seem as if she’s particularly constrained creatively in Wye Oak, who made one of the finest guitar records of the past decade in 2007’s Civilian and then promptly threw out the six-string and went all-out electropop for the glorious follow-up, Shriek. June’s surprise latest LP, Tween, struck a balance somewhere between the two, but all the while Wasner’s been recording and occasionally releasing online tracks under her Flock of Dimes pseudonym.
At some point, for Jenn Wasner, all the praise she attracted as a guitarist began to grow complicated. “It felt so strange to have the focus shift from my songs and ideas to my guitar playing,” the Wye Oak leader shared in an essay this summer. “‘This chick shreds!’ ‘Hey, you can really play!’” Wasner saw how her own guitar work was often cast as a spectacle, in contrast to her equally talented male bandmates.
Half of Baltimore's Wye Oak, singer/guitarist/record-breaking self-taught bassist Jenn Wasner has been getting itchy feet recently, trying out a bit of indie-R&B (as opposed to her more familiar indie-folk) in Dungeonesse with John Ehrens, and dipping into this side-project when she finds any more spare time. Flock Of Dimes has been a semi-going concern for the last four years, dishing up the odd single, but now the serious stuff starts. Not that Wasner bills this as the new day job: it's more a vessel for the kind of experimentation she's presumably not ready to pour into Wye Oak, now settled into something more solid.
You probably know Jenn Wasner as ‘the one with the guitar’ from Wye Oak, but in her latest guise as Flock Of Dimes, she displays a compellingly multi-faceted personality. Wasner’s website includes a letter from her friend, writer Rachel Monroe, which outlines her anxious move to North Carolina from her native Baltimore, a place that Wasner both loved and felt as though it was “eating her alive”. And this goes a long way to explaining the complex push-and-pull of If You See Me, Say Yes, it’s a work of tentative steps and excited optimism.