The magic of the image, and the magic of the record, is in the way they are framed together. As with Wye Oak’s best records, Release the Dogs finds its own unique voice by holding opposing ideas and aesthetics in tension with each other, and inviting the listener to find their own answer. That tension comes through loud and clear in Andy’s voice, which is recorded so intimately that it sometimes sounds like it’s emanating from inside your own throat. “While you’re away, I wait outside the house / Lift an ear to every sound / I sleep all day like a dog whose master’s out,” he sings on “Dogs,” painting a vivid picture of the album’s titular animals as a symbol of both domestic stasis and what often lurks beneath it. Throughout Release the Dogs, the habits and rituals of domestic life begin to crack and fray under the questions we are afraid to ask and the truths we are afraid to acknowledge. After painting a picture of daily domestic tasks like gardening and baking bread in “Starts,” Andy concludes, “We live between the good and the bad dream,” giving voice to the ways in which the signifiers of domestic stability can, themselves, be illusions or fantasies.
At times, Release the Dogs brings to mind the homespun world-building of Phil Elverum’s early-’00s work as The Microphones. At times, it brings to mind the deliberate introspection of Arthur Russell. It’s a cliché to say that a record “defies comparison,” but it fits here; not because of any self-styled aesthetic obtusity, but rather because Release the Dogs invites you into such an intimate and singular space that you can’t imagine it being anything, anywhere, or anyone else. Even as he constructs ever more complicated musical worlds, and even as he fills those worlds with big, complicated questions, Andy is still somehow making it all seem natural and effortless