Tracking Wye Oak’s career can be a constant act of reminding yourself to not underestimate them. Ever since Merge reissued their beautiful and introspective debut If Children almost exactly ten years to this day, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack have sounded wise beyond their years. Not only have their songs always been rendered patiently and thoughtfully, but Wasner herself has an astounding presence in both her vocals and lyrics. They deepened their dreamy qualities on The Knot and came close to perfecting them on Civilian. Even if Shriek wasn’t an unqualified success, it still showed they could organically incorporate synths prominently. Yet, it feels like Wye Oak have been constantly on the precipice of a breakthrough. They already have several great albums to their name, but the closest they’ve come to greater recognition is when Civilian’s title track was featured on The Walking Dead.

The band’s sixth album (fifth if you don’t count the odds and ends collection, Tween), The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, is a statement. You have the declarative (if awkward) sentence of the title, as well as an album that Wye Oak couldn’t have made at any previous point, at least not this well. Its contemplation isn’t the kind that can be faked or felt in part. Wasner and Stack fuse sounds from several previous records. There’s the wistfulness of If Children, the urgency of Civilian, and the synth emphasis of Shriek. It’s not a hodgepodge, though. Instead, it’s a culmination of just about every texture they’ve explored before, fostered through unmistakable maturity.

Said emotional growth can be found all over the lyrics. “It seems to those who know me best, my luck is wild and in excess/I don’t know why some suffer so and others never fear to go,” Wasner ponders on the fiery ‘Lifer.’ A reflection on the circumstances that let her succeed in life where so many others have failed for no fault of their own, it’s not a cry for unwarranted pity or attention but an examination of how our own sense of gratitude can be anxiety-provoking. One of the best attributes of Wasner’s songwriting is her ability to poetically translate younger thoughts and experiences into an adult mindset without condescension. Even if a song like ‘It Was Not Natural,’ with lyrics of “I have to work now at things that used to be like breathing,” isn’t explicitly about adolescence, she’s longing for an earlier time, not necessarily when things were simpler or easier, but when she could find refuge in certain activities all the more easily.

Wasner has always had an attractive singing voice, but she’s never sung with so much determination from beginning to end. Even more impressively, she’s making proclamations whose effectiveness would be dampened by demureness. “I can’t hold onto my anger. Though sometimes it would do me good,” she confesses on opener, ‘The Instrument.’ ‘My Signal’ is a string-led interlude and Wasner’s bid at a torch song of sorts. But don’t think that over a decade as a band has caused her and Stack to coast. Some of the best moments on The Louder I Call happen when they go for broke. The lyrics of ‘Symmetry’ are a chilling examination of conformity. While it could’ve proceeded in an organized, on-the-nose fashion, the effect is greatened by the scorching synths and Wasner’s palpable internal crisis. At first glance, ‘Say Hello’ might seem a bit too normal for a song with lyrics like “I felt my hollow bones/I saw how little time left in me” but a momentous breakdown demonstrates the virtue of patience and trust.

Another virtue that Wasner understands is confidence. Trust in oneself isn’t about purging insecurities and foisting all blame upon others. It’s about being honest about your strengths and shortcomings and realizing that others can learn from you just as you can learn from them. On ‘You Of All People’ she addresses the fallacy of comparing artists to their works and her urges “to look up at something larger than [her]self.” ‘Who is Jenn Wasner?’ is a question, she’s barely begun to find the answer to, but on this album, she’s on the right track. She concludes it by letting us know we can suspend our own investigations. “I am not my shadow and this is all you need to know.”

In 2016, I finally got an opportunity to see Wye Oak perform. Afterwards, I spoke briefly with Wasner at the merch table, telling her about how meaningful it was to see the show after years of fandom. She returned the gratitude and I felt the sincerity in every ounce of her appreciation. The last song on The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is called ‘I Know It’s Real.’ If there’s any band qualified to make a statement on authenticity, it’s Wye Oak. Will this album be the one that catapults them to playing sold-out 1,000+ capacity venues? Who knows, but Wasner and Stack seem most focused on staying true to themselves.