Wye Oak – Civilian (Merge Records/City Slang)
March 28, 2011 by Tshepo Mokoena
2011 is shaping up to be a pretty damn strong year for female-fronted vocals of the non-manufactured pop variety. With the likes of Anna Calvi, Oh Land and tune-yards showing their chops already, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner is another to add to the growing list of well-crafted full lengths lead by female singers this year. She works with bandmate Andy Stack to lift from a mass of folk-inspired indie the impressive record we hear on Civilian.
Akin to The Howling Bells, Cat Power and Metric, Wye Oak use a treble-heavy guitar sound and plenty of shake and shimmer percussion to great effect. This album lifts and ebbs in all the right points and really holds together as an entire narrative. It somehow rumbles and whispers at the point where folk songwriting intersects with echo-laden indie and pop without sounding disjointed. Wye Oak make music with an honesty and devotion to delivering a story. There is no sense of a filler track being thrown in amongst a few stronger others; it’s all about the sort of sincerity that can almost be intimidating in its opennes.
Wye Oak particularly shine on ‘Holy Holy’, single ‘Civilian’ and dark slow-burner ‘Dogs Eyes’. They play with dynamics and rely heavily on the husky tones of Wasner’s layered vocal delivery to push the songs forward. It works. She makes you lean in and have a closer listen whether her voice is hollering over crashing cymbals or murmuring over a pad of keyboard chords.
This is a record worth owning and a perfect one to play on those beautiful sunny days that keep peeking out. Yes, the fact that I gave it my first listen on a bright spring day may add to a slight bias but let’s just leave that behind. Civilian has just the sort of songs to add to your summer playlists this year, and is an excellent offering from Wye Oak.