You Can Be A Wesley conjures up a mélange of clean, crisp Telecaster licks, precision downstrokes, and naked walking bass lines on their new release Heard Like Us. And if you think you’ve heard it before, maybe you have somewhere during the ‘90s. YCBAW revisits a time when indie rock was still feeling its way through the post-punk landscape, while introducing their own instinctive innovations on an album that you will like on the first listen, and love on the second.
The band opens with what has become de rigueur for ambitious indie albums (maybe since Modest Mouse’s – QRO album review – "Horn Intro"): the palate-cleansing introduction. Sort of like an opening band that is friendly and engaging, without stealing the limelight, "6/8 Tengo" starts off the album with a weird psychic riff backed by some light feedback that lays the foundation for the more straight-ahead pop songs to follow. It grabs your attention – and there is plenty worth your attention on Heard Like Us.
Where to start? "Creatures" is a quiet xx-esque (QRO live review) bass line-led song that absolutely explodes towards the end. "Stuck in a Battle" is a Breeders (QRO live review)-inflected pop gem with surprising and pleasant tempo changes. The guitar progression on "Fourth Walls" sounds like that famous Dawson’s Creek song "I Don’t Want To Wait" for about four bars, and then blossoms into a beautiful beast of its own creation with great dual vocals from Saara Untracht-Oakner and one of the guys.
This is the sort of album that rewards re-listening, but if there is one element that will grab you right away, it’s the standout vocals of Ms. Untracht-Oakner. She’s concocted a strange alchemy in her delivery, impressive in its range and depth. There are the pixy strains of Joanna Newsom in "Kiddie Pool", the folk banshee-isms of Margaret Darling (of Seedy Seeds – QRO album review) on "Wildlife", and occasionally she hits an old skool riot grrrl howl à la Kathleen Hanna (literally ‘old skool’ – Ms. Hannah just donated her collected papers, ‘zines, letters to New York University – is she planning to die soon?…).
All things considered, more influences come to mind after listening YCBAW’s Heard Like Us than can be mentioned in one review. Strangely enough, the more influences you hear, the less YCBAW sounds like any of them and the more they sound like themselves. That’s a good sign. It’s going to keep you listening to Heard Like Us, and make you want to hear even more.