Baltimore natives Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack humbly named themselves after their home state’s famous Wye Oak tree after playing small gigs under the name Monarch. The nod to the historical 460-year-old timber — formerly the nation’s largest white oak prior to its demise in a June 2002 hurricane — is fitting; the duo’s If Children LP plants its roots deep in finely-aged indie rock aesthetic; think vintage Yo La Tengo meets a good-natured Cat Power.
Wasner and Stack share all instrumentation (guitars, percussion, keyboards) on this lilting, 11-song storybook full of never-ending questions about an always-changing life. Wasner’s wistful performance conjures the autumnal vocals of ex-Azure Ray songstress Maria Taylor, tempered with a few stray wisps of Giant Drag’s Annie Hardy. Wasner and Stack’s well-brushed harmonies on the celestial "Archaic Smile" and the piano-heavy "Keeping Company" search for a sunnier side, but If Children‘s prevailing mood is one of wavering melancholy. Reflective moments, such as "Regret" and "Family Glue," showcase Wye Oak’s penchant for swirling, guitar-driven soundscapes. There are plenty of intricate shoegaze tinges and psych-folk flourishes to get repeatedly wrapped up in, yet for all its prettiness, If Children is an honest-to-goodness pop effort with a clean, nearly effortless flow.