When Jenn Wasner wrote “Every Day Like the Last,” she wanted the title to be open-ended: “[It] could mean every day like the day that came before, or it could mean every day like the last day that you get,” she explained. Lyrically, the song wrestles with accepting companionship: “It might be easier for me if not for you/I might be free/To live a life of some prolonged tranquility/Alone with my thoughts.” But as Wassner evokes the title in a final, gorgeous refrain, coasting upward on humid flashes of pedal steel, it’s unclear where she lands.

This song opens Wye Oak’s new collection, Every Day Like the Last, which compiles six standalone tracks from between 2019 and 2023 alongside three new songs. The process of releasing those singles soon after completion, with no aim for a larger project, resulted in a sense of creative liberation, and the music collected here speaks to Wasner and Andy Stack’s willingness to experiment with how they present their work. While the individual tracks were often striking and inventive, they fare better as a complete project: Every Day Like the Last hangs together not as a batch of unrelated loosies but effectively a new Wye Oak album, built by breadcrumb trail in the five years since their last proper full-length, The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs.

Wye Oak have long abandoned the volatile dynamics that were once their trademark, and these songs emerge from the same period in which Wasner rebooted her solo project Flock of Dimes with a more sparse, reflective sound. Like her masterful 2021 album, Head of Roses, Every Day Like the Last is subtle and steady-handed even in its most dramatic upheavals. Although it returns to a more guitar-oriented aesthetic after the groove-driven pivot that began with 2014’s Shriek, the band now works with a hard-earned serenity. Stack no longer wallops his drums but brushes and coaxes; Wasner’s guitar has descended from volcanic eruptions or skyward soars to flickering embers floating in the air. The gentler instrumentation allows Wasner’s voice, long the band’s secret weapon, to shine. Again and again—in the weaving melody of “TNT,” the gliding layers of “Evergreen,” or the cascading chorus in “Fear of Heights”—her melodies are mysterious and intoxicating, moving with the arc of a river.

Wye Oak spend as much time in gray areas as ever, cataloging moments of strife with restraint. The lyrics are personal and unspecific but mostly gesture towards wrestling with relationships, trying to locate acceptance in discomfort. A new song called “Repeat (If You Remind Me)” closes the album—a moment of relative peace in which Wasner resolves to find meaning in a fragile and fleeting existence. Wye Oak’s music has often been evocative for its malleability: Their songs could take place in spring or autumn, at rebirth or encroaching decay. As the duo navigates these in-between states—both in their personal lives and the trajectory of the band—Every Day Like the Last coheres into a short but resonant whole: a series of snapshots taken over a turbulent stretch of years.

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Wye Oak: Every Day Like the Last