With Civilian, Wye Oak has mastered the art of creating songs that swell and progress to peaks of ultimate complexity. Many of the tracks begin with the spotlight placed squarely on Jenn's smooth, subtle, yet powerfully sultry vocals, only to have the mood tempered by distorted guitar riffs and resonating percussion. Although the general feel of the music is one of melancholy, the mesmerizing lyrics and diaphonous undertones keep the album from becoming too dark and burdensome. Heavy topics are approached with a sort of cautious intensity that carefully toes the line between drawing listeners in and pushing them over the edge.
The group has been tossed into the indie/lo-fi category--one that is overflowing with aesthetically similar musicians who ultimately have little in common, aside from their affinity for creating probing and consequential music. In a genre where anything goes, Wye Oak has responded by developing an entirely novel offering--from the introductory track's opening note to the album's final fade, there is nothing contrived or derivative to be found. Comparisons can be drawn to several of the band's contemporaries, from Rogue Wave to Pavement, but fans expecting a rehashed version of such artists' respective albums are in for an unanticipated treat.
Because Civilian is much more polished and produced than it's predecessors, it is more accessible. That being said, the band has stayed their direction, and their material has maintained the nuances and intricacies that brought them to the attention of so many discerning listeners. This album is a rarity, in that it will delight loyal fans and newcomers alike. The lyrical genius, gorgeous vocals, and singular instrumental arrangements make Civilian more than an experience of passive listening, but, as alluded to on the album's cover art, one more akin to musical immersion.