13 Dec 2016

If You See Me Say Yes by Flock Of Dimes

From The Sampler, 7:30 pm on 13 December 2016
Flock of Dimes

Flock of Dimes Photo: Supplied

Elliott Childs absorbs the atmospheric pop of Baltimore’s Flock Of Dimes.

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Jenn Wasner is probably best known as one half of ever evolving, indie rock duo Wye Oak and also as one half of electro-pop, duo Dungeonesse. But here we find her working solo under the guise of Flock of Dimes, a project that seems to find common ground amongst all of her others. If You See Me Say Yes, is full of synth pop influences, understated guitar and Wasner’s rich vocals. It also works as a perfect showcase for Wasner’s talents as a songwriter and producer, with her having done most of the work on the album herself.

There are musical themes here that Wasner has touched on in her previous work. The synth pop feel and drastically catchy chorus of the albums lead single 'Semaphore' have similarities to Dungeoneese, whilst the shimmering, strummed guitar of 'Birthplace' has the hazy feel of Wye Oaks more recent output. However, the feel of this record is quite different from Wasner’s previous work. There is a calm, optimism on display here.

Some of the sounds on the record can bring to mind chart hits of the 1980’s but Wasner’s melodic sensibilities, not to mention her deep, often processed vocals, manage to steer the album away from becoming a retro pastiche. Her voice seems to float above everything else in these songs. Her soothing melodies weave in and out of the underlying tracks, giving the songs a strangely calming, warm feel. Tracks like 'Flight' prove that, given the chance, Wasner is adept at balancing between programmed electro grooves and smooth, dreamlike vocals.

The lyrics of If You See Me Say Yes are a departure from Wasner’s earlier writing. She seems more self-assured and comfortable. Lines like “My love is not an object, that rusts with lack of use” seem to indicate some finality to the questions she's been asking. Even the titles of the two interlocking tracks that bookend the album 'Some Times It Is Right', and 'To Have No Answer', give you an idea that whilst Wasner may not have found what she was looking for, there is some resolution around what she has found.

Overall, If You See Me Say Yes feels like a comfortable album for its creator. Wasner seems to have been free to follow her instincts and desires, such as her choice to use synthesizers and programmed loops as the primary instruments. Wasner has spoken before about her decision to turn away from the guitar due to her style and the fact that she's a talented female guitarist, becoming a distraction for critics, listeners and eventually herself. As a result, the guitar here is used sparingly but there is a confidence to the songwriting and production on this album. There is no leaning on her guitar skills to support half-baked ideas or shaky production choices. This album is the sound of a talented musician indulging her creativity and, whilst not completely leaving her past behind, finding new ground to explore.

If You See Me, Say Yes is available on Partisan Records.