The latest participants in Adult Swim’s Singles Program series are Americana-tinged indie rockers Wye Oak, following Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘I’ll Come Back 4 U‘. The Baltimore duo – whose understated LP Civilian was one of my favourite albums of last year – head in a different sonic direction than you might expect with the angular, hypnotic ‘Spiral’, but the slow-burning track is no less entrancing with its addition of marimba, programmed drums, and mesmerizing vocal effects.
Vocalist/guitarist Jenn Wasner spoke NPR recently about the track:
This track was written specifically for this Adult Swim series, but they didn’t provide any thematic or sonic guidance for the song. A lot of the music I had been working on independently at the time sounded something like this — so I felt like the Adult Swim opportunity was, as a standalone track, a great opportunity to experiment with some of these new sonic and rhythmic ideas in a low-pressure context. The song revolves around the idea of repetition and rhythmic interplay — parts that are fairly minimalist and circular that come together to form an almost hypnotic wash. I wrote this song while living at the Soft House (a warehouse space in the Copycat building in Baltimore), and my roommate across the hall, Rod Hamilton, practiced marimba and vibraphone often.
As I was writing the track, it occurred to me that the marimba loops I had heard him practicing were a perfect fit — perhaps they had settled in my unconscious all along? — and we were very grateful that he was willing to contribute to this overall effect. Overall, this song is purposely catchy, but also (to me, at least) dark and menacing. It’s about going around in circles, feeling trapped by the momentum of bad decisions, being funneled into a negative feedback loop until you, like the song, eventually fall apart.
Listen to ‘Spiral’ below (via Stereogum).