Sunday, April 03, 2011

Wye Oak - Civilian review

Even though Civilian is the third album from Wye Oak, a duo from Baltimore, Maryland, this is the first I have ever heard of them.  After listening to the album I was actually annoyed that they had flew under my radar for so long.  I like to think of myself as someone who is rather proactive in finding new music, but how I missed not one, but two full length albums by this band is distressing to say the least.

Civilian is one of those albums that is almost impossible to review.  I could deconstruct all of the songs and talk about the technical aspects of them but it wouldn't mean anything.  It would be a hollow shell of what the album is, and frankly it is just one of those records that you have to hear and feel for yourself.

On album opener, "Two Small Deaths", delicate and faint plinks on the keyboard and simple guitar plucking carefully nestle vocalist Jenn Wasner's wary voice throughout the song, creating the perfect introduction and setting the tone for the rest of the record.  Are there some missteps?  Yes, it is not a perfect record, and not all of the songs are immediately likable.  What this album is, however, is a wonderful example of what an album as a whole can do.

Wye Oak vocalist Jenn Wasner sings with such utter sincerity that she commands attention despite her hushed delivery.  The arrangements perfectly cater to the immediate desperation in her inflections, demanding that the listener sit on the edge of his seat in anticipation.  Each song gradually builds up tension, teasing you until the subtle electronic tinges swirl, bend and crash into the vocals beautifully.  Everything at play weaves together seamlessly, but at the same time there is a delicacy to each song, allowing a mysterious and otherworldly feeling to permeate each and every track on the album.  Civilian is the product of daydreams.  It is the product of apprehension and of exasperation.  It is the product of bewilderment and irrefutable joy.

Granted, this isn't the kind of album that you can throw on at any given time and in any given mood.  Wye Oak has carefully constructed an album that builds a unique atmosphere, and in my opinion, the album is best consumed in its entirety.  Sure there are songs that can be labeled as "singles", but to limit yourself to those songs would be doing yourself a great injustice.  Civilian is the type of album that grows and immerses you into its world.  You lose yourself in it whether you want to or not, and when its all over you'll not only be glad that you did, but you'll find yourself wanting to visit again and again.

Wye Oak - I Don't Feel Young

Wye Oak Civilian

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