Wye Oak, 'Civilian' (Merge)

Critical Mass
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Label: Merge

by Josh Modell

This Baltimore male-female duo's third album alternates gorgeous currents of dread, catharsis, assurance, and doubt. Singer-guitarist Jenn Wasner's voice and lyrics -- smoky, seductive, strange -- are perfectly framed by everything from chugging shoegaze ("Holy Holy") to subdued thrum ("Fish") to virtually nothing (the gutting closer "Doubt"). The title track brings it all together -- a spooky, pretty lament that builds, improbably, to a shivering climax of Neil Young-ish guitar squall. Though made by only two people, Civilian never feels less than fully realized.

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