It’s easy to compare Wye Oak to Beach House—both groups originated in Baltimore, are comprised of boy/girl duos and usually get pegged as dream-pop acts. But Wye Oak’s dark, gorgeous and dynamic record stands on its own. On Civilian, Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner have crafted their best work to date.
After easing for the first minute-and-a-half, album opener “Two Small Deaths,” takes flight with a series of swooning and layered textures seasoned with pleasant distortion. “Holy Holy” continues building toward a blistering, noisy melodic euphoria three quarters of the way through the track—it’s polished but emotionally raw.
Civilian dishes out doses of vibrant indie-pop and experimental noise endeavors that can feel intricate or simple, fluid or fragmented. “Dog Eyes” interrupts its colorful up-tempo pace with poignant breakdowns that at times roar more like The Besnard Lakes than Beach House. “Fish” steadily floats atop the melancholic warmth of Wasner’s vocals, while the title track strikes a tense discordant chord as it slowly unravels into disorder.
While there are moments where the wails and wallows of Wye Oak immediately grab your attention, Civilian mostly gives back what the listener puts into it. The depth of each of these 10 tracks becomes clearer with each passing listen, letting Wye Oak’s momentous peaks and hushed valleys fully reveal their striking and lush sonic landscape.