Monday, March 07, 2011

Album Review: Wye Oak - Civilian

The longer I stare at the cover art of Wye Oak’s third full-length record, Civilian, the more anxious I get. I don’t want to look away. I’m expecting the diver, frozen in a tucked cannonball and partially submerged, to resume his or her decent into the darker depths at any moment. I don’t want to miss it.

Listening to Civilian is a similar experience. The audience can hear what’s coming — Jenn Wasner (vocals, guitar) and Andy Stack (everything else) are going to erupt. They don’t know when it will arrive, but it could be any second.

Subtle misdirections and feints keep the listener guessing. Small cymbal flares on “Civilian” build anticipation even though they signal nothing. When the drums boom just over a minute in, it’s easy to think the crescendo has peaked, but Wye Oak continue to pressurize the track until it explodes into a violent guitar solo.

Tension and release is a central tenant of all great music and Wye Oak is certainly isn’t the first band to exaggerate it to their advantage. What sets Civilian apart is not only how well the band uses it within individual songs, it’s also how they create tension and release over several tracks.

After it builds to and climaxes at “Civilian,” the album gradually lightens until it closes with the refreshing “We Were Wealth” and the sparse “Doubt.”

Civilian is a rare album that you can rock out to and let wash over you. When you come back up for air, you’ll be ready to dive right in again.

Wye Oak will play Local 506 with Lower Dens on Saturday, March 13. Civilian will be out March 8 on Merge Records.

1 comment:

Lyndsay said...

I have been listening to this album non-stop since NPR released it for a sneak preview listen. This is destined to be one of the best 506 shows of the year.