Monday, 14 February 2011

Wye Oak - Civilian

Ever since featuring the title track from Wye Oak's upcoming album Civilian on the POPSICULTURE Advent Calendar, I've been itching to hear the full disc. I finally got my review copy a week ago but, apart from a quick listen through, I've been so busy with 80s movies that I haven't quite got around to reviewing it.

So, as it's Valentine's Day and I'm so booked up with romantic meals, I thought I'd put that to rights and let you all know what I think of Civilian - I can honestly say, for no reason I can quite put my finger on, I've been awaiting this one slightly more eagerly than usual.


High Points

I often say the beginning of an album is one of its high points - but, like the beginning of a holiday, it's the start of something that could prove life-changing, if you really truly love what you hear. On Civilian, we're launched right into Two Small Deaths, a mellow, reflective composition that shows this is a no-holds-barred selection of music. It's actually one of the most emotionally challenging tracks on the disc, and things do become a bit more upbeat - it's just interesting to see an opener that, on the face of it, is pretty bleak.

Second track The Alter has just a touch of Blade Runner to it - something in the chord sequence, I think - which seems fitting in the middle of our run on 80s movies. It's definitely not old-fashioned sounding though, so don't be misled by that. It's just the subtlest of hints there for we cultists.

Civilian itself is probably a bit mellower than the rest of the album, and picks up on the modern-day folk theme that's not so apparent elsewhere. Its rhythm is catchier than its lyrics, but that's no bad thing when the vocals are deliberately caught on the breeze, lending a soaring quality to the first three quarters of the song. A long, brilliantly clashing musical screech finishes off the track in a perfectly self-aware exclamation of anguish.

The Verdict

OK, I won't lie. Civilian comes damn close, but doesn't quite live up to my (unreasonable) expectations in the way Tired Pony did. If this album were a girl, I'd love her - as a friend. That's not really a bad thing, given how much my friends mean to me. It's just one step away from geronimo, that's all.

Having said all of that, this is still an excellent album - and I actually appreciate being surprised by what I hear when I play it. I love it less because it's not what I expected, exactly, but I also respect it more for that same reason. It has moments of the purest beauty and whole minutes of what seems pretty close to rage. Wye Oak - Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack - have created something to be proud of and set a firm foundation for what could prove to be a long and very successful career ahead.

Final Score: 87%

Wye Oak - Civilian is out March 7th on City Slang Records

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