Wye Oak - Civilian
The opening moments as keyboard drone fades in over background chatter give an instant signpost of the wistful pull of this, the third album from Wye Oak. Riding over a backwash of fuzz and reverb, Jenn Wasner's voice is deceivingly soothing, words at times obscured as though muttered in a cave. It's a neat trick, making you dive in with her to discover the answer to many puzzles. Anyone familiar with their previous output will know it was marked by understated intimacy. This manages to start there - and then soar considerably. They intersperse muted recesses with raw guttural guitar lines to great effect, recalling Rust-era Neil Young. As it squalls and pounds through ‘Holy Holy’ before stopping for brief moments to bring us the simple scales of ‘Dogs Eyes’ or the burbling chant of ‘Plains’, this is turned into some roller coaster. Title track ‘Civilian’ is perhaps the most accessible, rooted in rolling country blues; it’s a song about the alienation of the everyday – we all pretend to be ordinary ‘civilians’ but are prevented by our own perversities and fetishes – adults keeping their own 30 year old baby teeth in a jewellery drawer and rendered incapable of love. ‘Doubt’ is a suitable coda, a simple echoing refrain adorned by plucked classical guitar, a brave finish. Seriously, this is the best thing I've heard in six months. Classic.