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Riding Along on Wye Oak’s “Holy” Roller Coaster

September 12, 2011
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A roller coaster ride would be a temptingly lazy metaphor to describe either the soft-loud dynamics of Wye Oak’s songs or the runaway success the Baltimore duo’s third full-length Civilian has enjoyed since its release in March. But the new video for “Holy Holy,” directed by Jeremy Johnstone, features the members of the band on an actual roller coaster, and the close-ups of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack’s faces as the ride pummels downward are often timed to sync up with the descending guitar riff that serves as the song’s big instrumental hook.

“Holy Holy” was my favorite track on Civilian upon the album’s initial release, a woozily seductive summary of everything Wye Oak’s moody midtempo songs do best that takes its sweet time to hit you with the full force of its chorus. So it’s exciting to see the song soundtrack arguably the first video to prominently feature the band itself–Wasner and Stack had little more than cameos in the clip for If Children’s “Please Concrete,” while The Knot’s “Sight, Flight” and the first Civilian video “Fish” featured actors and animation, respectively.

Throughout the “Holy Holy” video, director Johnstone uses enough extreme camera angles and moody editing to make a summer day of riding the rides at Coney Island not seem quite so innocent and fun, especially given the ominous final shot. And while Wasner does a good job of keeping a poker face while singing the haunting tune to the camera, there are a few shots where she can’t help cracking a smile as they go up and down that roller coaster again.

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