- Audio CD (7 Mar. 2011)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: City Slang
- ASIN: B004FJ63SA
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 117,335 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Wye Oak are from Baltimore. This is worth mentioning upfront because the music of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack couldn’t be more different from the B-More image given to us by repeat viewings of The Wire and the booty-quaking beats of the club-rap scene if it wore lederhosen and was entirely played on tubas. Wye Oak are not black, urban nor dirty south; they are white, thoughtful, restrained and immaculately studenty. They have, after previous albums If Children and The Knot, been described as indie-folk, but probably won’t be after this leap forward into poised alt-pop.
Civilian fits perfectly within a music scene currently charmed by the futurist blue-eyed soul of The xx, Anna Calvi and James Blake, not because Wye Oak sound remotely like any of those three, but because they all share a certain mood. A perennially night-time mood of quiet storm intensity, of florid emotions repressed into sensual whispers and twilight moans.
Singer/guitarist Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Stack choose to design this mood with drums, piano, organ and guitars in love with both The Cure’s Faith album and post-My Bloody Valentine shoegaze. The gorgeous drift of their sad melodies is lent something extra-special by the voice of Wasner, which sometimes sounds like Christine McVie mumbling at a bus stop, or both sisters from School of Seven Bells, or – fair enough – a diffident, slightly distracted and possibly post-coital folk singer. The three songs that begin Civilian – Two Small Deaths, The Altar and the heart-stopping Holy Holy – carve out a space concerned with love, death and God, and are so good that one expects the rest of the record to disappoint. Instead, Civilian keeps on immersing you in its shimmering loveliness, creating and sustaining a soundscape that moves between calm and anxiety with a natural grace that borders on the sublime.
The shoegaze revival that permeates so much current indie-pop is fascinating. Because it’s the first time that a specific sound has been revived and – originators MBV and Cocteau Twins aside – vastly improved upon. Civilian pushes Wye Oak to the head of the nu-shoegaze pack with a record as blissed out as it is maudlin, as rootsy and tough as it is fey and introspective. It will soundtrack many lonely nights in many halls of residence… and is sexy enough to soundtrack a few less lonely ones, too.
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I just fell in love with the tune, so I rushed to my computer to order their CD, hoping I would get a couple of other great songs. When I got the CD, I listened to it 3 times in a row. The last time that I did that, it was with "Seventeen Seconds" from the Cure, more than 30 years ago.
What surprises me is that I was never found of female singers, probably because I can't relate. But this girl from Baltimore, boy, she moves me, inside out.
Anyways, if you like that tune from Walking Dead, don't hesitate to get the whole album, "Civilian" is simply the best album I bought in a long time.
The good news is that the best is yet to come. Indeed "Holy Holy" is a squally pounding rock song and a splendid construction that shows that Wasner knows her Kim Deal inside out and is determined to do damage to her hearing. She softens things considerably for the genuinely lovely "Doubt" which shows the bands romantic side accompanied by a sole classical guitar and an aching lyric. You should also check out the "We are wealth" where there are some comparisons to be made to Beach House but with enough respectable distance on a song packed with shimmering guitar prettiness. Try is for size and try not to be impressed as it builds to an explosive conclusion. Finally lets conclude at the beginning with the brilliant haunting opener "Two small deaths" which starts with crowd noises and mutates in a Cocteau Twins hymn like extravaganza.
"Civilian" is then a real surprise package. It is Wye Oak's third release and on this evidence some immediate digging into their past will be required work. Wye Oak have produced in equal measures a brooding and taught album which nevertheless is full of deep layers and great songs. One to watch.
The album has a salubrious amount of darkness. Not in a sombre, grumpy way but more in an uplifting, resolute, inspiring mode. Rather than a rushed format the songs are cleverly crafted and the compositions have a delicate and thoroughly thought-out process that makes them affable and hypnotic. 'Holy Holy' is a hybrid of urgent guitar and Jenn Wasner's ethereal vocals really complement the heavy bass-drum beats.
The album's title track is the standout; the echo laden MBV influenced guitar, the pummelling drums and droning organ sound are simply irresistible together and the warts-and-all production puts it in the 'joy to listen to' category. 'Plains' is much more alt-country in its introduction, but the haunting piano and noise riddled guitar bring the house down during the song's finale and prevent it sinking in MOR territory.
They close with the stripped-bare 'Doubt', just Jenn and a guitar. It's rather haunting and brittle but the soaring yet sinister vocals cant dampen the spirit of artistic imagination in this beautiful album. If this becomes their epitaph, and let's hope its not for a long time, it will be a more than fervent send off for a truly great collection of tracks.
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