Photograph by Natasha Tylea

The best thing to come out of Baltimore since Omar Little, Wye Oak’s recently released Civilian finds Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack taking the reins of production after handing it off for last year’s EP My Neighbour/My Creator. What results is a deeply personal effort. Previous album The Knot was (belatedly) among my favourite records of 2009, and Civilian seems to rank among 2011’s top releases so far.

The formula remains the same: Wasner’s powerful voice and guitar are punctuated by Stack pulling double duty on drums and keys. Though The Knot couldn’t be described as a light album, Civilian is even darker.  Civilian is a very dense, insular record, with a central theme of loneliness. The title track and first single is a particular highlight. Alternating between hushed verses and raucous guitar freakouts, ‘Civilian’ shows the range of the band in a quick four minutes. ‘Holy Holy’ has similarly quiet beginnings, ending in a jubilant chorus. Despite having only two members, Wye Oak crams as much sound as they can into each of their songs.

Album opener ‘Two Small Deaths’ begins with the chatter of a crowd, silenced when Wasner’s guitar comes in. The actual live experience was similarly reverent when the band recently played Toronto’s El Mocambo. Following opening bands Huddle and Callers, Wye Oak took the stage, immediately commanding the audience’s attention. This was highlighted when she performed Civilian’s final song, ‘Doubt’ as the lone song during the encore. Without percussion or feedback to hide behind, you could see the raw passion Wye Oak is capable of. Blending the best of shoegaze, folk, and indie rock, Civilian is a must-listen.

Wye Oak – Holy Holy
Wye Oak – Civilian


— , April 18, 2011    Comments Off on Wye Oak: Civilian