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Flock Of Dimes
If You See Me, Say Yes Matthew Horton , October 6th, 2016 14:19

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.

Really, a whole album of Flock Of Dimes isn't miles from Wye Oak's latter output – it's just Wasner giving free rein to her pop instincts, which is probably an experiment on some gauge or other. If You See Me, Say Yes seems to take its cue from Wye Oak's 2014 album Shriek, the one that reached out beyond the fanbase, embraced prettiness and synthesizers, and pulled songs into sharper focus.

As Flock Of Dimes, Wasner refuses to waste a second. Most tracks are pop hits waiting to happen in some daring universe, with verses as charming as the shimmering choruses, each a perfectly formed little jewel, Wasner's voice lush and warm. Even the apparently extraneous intro, 'Sometimes It Is Right...', finds a satisfying conclusion, bookending the album with an extended reprise that packs noise, thoughts, conversations, emotions and free sax into a great melange before a glimmering synth takes us full circle. The unlikely result is it all feels neat, a story coming to a natural end.

In between, it's a romance — albeit a tentative one. "I believe that you could love me just because," Wasner sings over the bossa beats and choppy chimes of 'Everything Is Happening Today',"but I remain as fragile as I ever was"; "Are you the one? Am I the one? Do you believe it can be done?" she asks on 'Given/Electric Life', possibly the album's most glorious song, a ballad over Cocteaus guitar, pulling at its own threads. On the other hand, the refined disco of 'Semaphore' pictures Wasner exasperated with the "lingering uncertainty", "too far gone" to communicate with shy signs. For a moment, she's ready to take the plunge.

Fittingly for a personal document, it's all written, produced and (mainly) performed by Wasner. There's a smattering of collaborators, including Wye Oak partner Andy Stack chipping in on sax and Brooklyn composer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Roche popping up throughout. The Brooklyn connection feels relevant, not just because the album was shaped there, also because its smooth synth grooves are reminiscent of Callers, its wordy pop of Dirty Projectors, the whole electro-indie upgrade the sort of thing Rostam Batmanglij might produce. Tenuous, perhaps, but a pervasive feeling.

More dominant though is a sense of freedom, however cautious Wasner's words appear to be. 'Minor Injustice' bounces like St Vincent's wonkier pop, the steel guitar on 'The Joke' noodles blissfully away like Steely Dan gone Balearic and 'You, The Vatican' has a touch of the Erasures in its semi-choral electro; it's an experiment where anything goes, clearly, but all in the service of conventionally great synth-pop. Put that day job on hold.