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Wye Oak

Civilian (Merge)

Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., March 18, 2011

SXSW Records

Wye Oak

Civilian (Merge)

At a time when every beachcomber with a four-track keeps rewriting the same pop song, Wye Oak offers a distinct and refreshing change of pace. The Baltimore duo, guitarist/vocalist Jenn Wasner and multi-instrumentalist Andy Stack, approaches albums with little thought to whether they can pull it off live, layering at times noisy guitar-rock over an impressionable palette of indie folk. While 2009's The Knot overextended in every direction, noted producer John Congleton helps reel matters back in on the band's third album. The standout title track builds perfectly from a stream of picked guitar and subdued organ toward an epic climax behind Stack's towering drums that nearly incinerates all that came before it. Something biblical's at stake in the shoegaze clamor of "Holy Holy," Crazy Horse squall of "Dogs Eyes," and reflective opener "Two Small Deaths," but Wasner never spells it out, focusing more on mood than meaning. In Civilian, quiet despair sounds like anything but. (Fri., 11:45pm, the Parish)

***.5

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