In 2016, when wildly prolific multi-player and lyricist Jane Wassner released her debut solo album of Flames of Dimes, she felt she had something to prove.
“I made a lot of assumptions about women in music, which people say about women,” said Wasser. Wye Oak. “I felt very angry about not getting the benefit of the doubt of my own artistry.” So she doubled down on that time-tested indie ethos of Do It Yourself – “If You See Me, Say Yes.”
“As it turns out,” the 34-year-old, Warner recalled in a recent video chat from his home near Durham, NC, “it doesn’t always make the best record.”
“If You See Me” is full of bright sounds and bright melodious thoughts, but it stimulates the mind more often than it does piercing the heart. “As someone who’s so obsessed with language, I think sometimes it can actually be a hindrance to feeling,” said Wasser, lounging on a sage-green couch – he suddenly realized, Catching a glimpse of her digital reflection in the zoom screen – the same color sweatshirt she was wearing. “I think that record, and pretty much any record you can get better with some form of collaborative expression.”
“Heads of Roses”, the Dimm’s second flock to be dismissed Friday, is a better record – the highlight of Wassenaar’s long, winding career. It is also a project revealing a creative paradox: sometimes an artist needs to become even more than himself with little help from his friends.
“I had the impression that he was trying to get out of his head,” said Nick Sanborn, a half-person in the electro-pop band Sylvan Esso. “Being her friend, it’s clear that her range is so wide and includes a lot of things.”
A respected veteran of the underground music scene, Wassenaar is almost accidentally multicolored, in a music industry with elevator pitches and genre-based pigeonholes. “Because I’m ready to experiment with so many beauty choices,” she said, “people often like, ‘I don’t really know What You do. We do not know where to place you. ”
“But it’s just a big part of who I am, and not something I want to change about myself,” she said. “It is a source of happiness.”
Even at Wye Oak, formed in 2006, Wassenaar and his bandmate, Andy Stack, feel allergic to repeating themselves. After receiving praise for “Civilian,” A breakout 2011 album full of off-kilter rhythms and Wassenaar’s inventive guitar playing, he followed it up with a record centered around synthesizers, “Shriek,” in 2014. His most recent EP, “No Horizon” from 2020, sung by prominently featured character arrangements Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
Both Wassner and Stack are Baltimore natives who met in high school. They were “one of those bands where everyone writes songs”, Stack recalled over the phone, although when 16-year-old Wassner brought him to practice, it was clear that his compositions were a cut above the standard warfare – Heavy fare. “She was the one Real Good songwriter from the beginning, ”he said.
Wassner and Stack have now been playing music together for more than half their lives. The key to Y Oak’s longevity, Stack said, is allowing each other to pursue other music projects in their spare time. (He has also been writing new material in quarantine.)
Over the past decade, Wassenaar has produced several side projects and played in touring bands of artists such as Sylvan Esso and Dirty Projectors; In 2019, she joined Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver. “I think the way the industry is set up to release as much music as I want, I have to trick people into doing it by inventing different names for themselves,” she said.
But, she reflected, “I had created this world of constant busyness and work and prevented me from sitting with myself for too long and examining my inner world.” So “Rose’s Head” is the answer to a particular riddle: What happens when one of the hardest working musicians in indie rock suddenly has to sit for a year?
Lust’s most recent romantic relationship ended just before the epidemic began. (When I mentioned that not every musician had been creatively inspired in the past year, she laughed: “I was trying to break my heart from them all the time!”) For the first time in her adult life Used to recommend, which I did not get. Without himself his usual distraction – no travel, no new band to join. “Nothing had to be done, but sit with my pain and myself,” he said. “I was very grateful to be able to make music, because it was one of the last things available to me as a source of comfort.”
Or, as she sings a huge, melodious new song, “Walking,” sounding more satisfied than sad, “alone again, alone again, my time is my own again.”
Over the past year, Wassner has consistently written songs, deepened his yoga practice and taught himself how to cook – something he never took the time to do, spending half his life on tour. (“No one would be thrilled by eating homemade food from me, but it’s definitely better than before with this whole thing.”)
In July, he gathered a small pod of trusted associates at a nearby studio. Sunburn sometimes joked that he should call the album “The Many Faces of Was”. More than anything already released, “Head of Roses” makes room for Wassner’s plurality of artistic voices. Neither of the singles sound the same – neither multicolored, nor kilter pop of “two”, nor slow-burning, psych-rock “Blue Price” – and none of them prepare the lavishly underwhelmed listeners of the album’s second half, recording the most stirring ballad Wadner ever. The common element that holds all these dissimilar parts together is its shiny, jewel-toned voice.
“I find myself feeling a lot more secure than before, which makes it easier to make choices without worrying so much about trying to prove to me,” Onener said. Delegating some technical tasks to either pine or engineer Bella Blasco helped her focus on her larger vision. All her colleagues were also friends, making it easy to tap into her vulnerability in the studio, too: “It was a joy to be truly felt by all the people in my music community when I was in my most mourning, personal. As. “
It was a relatively new experience. “For a lot of music, which I’ve written in the past, I’ll reverse-engineer a feeling – I’ll think of a concept or idea that I wanted to end, then I’ll make it,” said Vanner. “Suddenly, with this record, it came from this second place.”
Which is not to say that Wassenaar has given up for his own benefit by challenging arrangements or signing on from time to time. Warner’s friend Meg Duffy said, “Seeing him do some songs went solo, as a guitarist who played on the album and recorded On Hand Habits,” I’m like, how do you do that too? It seems that ballet does algebra. ”
But now, Wassenaar wants to work more cerebral elements of his music in the service of a feeling, first and foremost.
“Everything I’ve learned about trauma this year and the treatment supports the idea that music is important,” Wasner said. He said, “It can remove a lot of strongholds, which we spread around the soft parts of ourselves – the parts that may need to be looked at the most. They are very hard to get past the rescue. But music can be an art form that is able to overcome those obstacles and reach us where we need to be. “