Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wye Oak – Civilian [Album Review]

I dismissed Wye Oak’s Civilian when it was released. I was a fan of their previous album, The Knot, but I was overwhelmed by the world of music when this album was coming to light. I half-halfheartedly listened to the album one day on NPR, but was still unmoved. After reading on Muzzle Of Bees that it was their favorite album of the year to date, I somewhat reluctantly downloaded it – mostly because I really respect Ryan’s opinion, but also because I was on the fence about checking them out in Austin at SxSW.

This album is now on my ever-growing list of wrong first impressions. Civilian is fantastic. At certain points of the album, you find yourself drifting away while Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack dip into shoegaze territory. Jenn Wasner’s vocals are often subtle and lull you into a trance…and then, wham! You’re jolted apart by a bouncing chorus or a noise explosion that rocks you to your core. It’s a similar formula that is found on The Knot but on Civilian, it feels more natural. Less forced.

The 3rd through 5th songs are what hooked me into this album for good. “Holy Holy” starts off like a house on fire and then eases off the throttle as Wasner’s vocals emerge. “Dogs Eyes” begins as a catchy 90′s indie tune before coming off the rails with Wasner showcasing her guitar chops. And just when you are in full air guitar mode, she shifts right back into a bouncy indie tune. “Civilian” builds slowly and ends with Wasner’s distorted guitar, ala Crazy Horse.

I had the pleasure of catching Wye Oak in Austin for the first time and was floored by their live performance. I knew Jenn Wasner could sing, but her guitar work was arguably the best I saw all week. And, as is the case in most good two-piece bands, the drumming was impeccable. Andy Stack was always in the right place giving Wasner plenty of space to get after it. Their ability to get the most out of the others’ performance is what truly makes them a special band.

Wye Oak – Civilian

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