Wye Oak – Civilian [Album Review]

by Woody on March 25, 2011

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

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve McCoy March 25, 2011 at 11:54 am

I’ve have it on my list, but just haven’t picked it up yet. Now you’ve forced my hand. Thanks!

Mark March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Glad you came around. This is one of my favorite albums thus far…simply fantastic. Gave it a 5-star review!

Ben March 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Their set at The Parish rivaled the Deervana set at La Zona Rosa on Saturday night. I was really impressed with the live sound and agree on Wasner’s guitar work, as well as Stack’s great one-handed drumming while playing synth. I downloaded a couple of albums and the EP as soon as I got back from Austin, and all are great, but Civilian is by far my favorite.

Shannon March 26, 2011 at 3:08 am

I could not agree more. Especially about songs 3 to 5!!!

Superior March 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Great sound! I have to agree about the drumming, impeccable!

uwmryan March 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

Nice. I’m glad I could return the favor and turn you guys onto something for once. Usually it’s the other way around.

Jeffort23 April 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm

It’s a big, lush-sounding album that brings you in close. Here’s a review I wrote for Civilian:

http://ludditestereo.net/2011/04/02/civilian-wye-oak-album-review/

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