Wye Oak - Civilian
St. Vincent and Beach House fanatics hankering for a dynamic, spacey mood piece, this Baltimore duo's third album advisable listening. The Wye Oak vet may be taken aback at the straightforwardness here; it's not that Civilian is overly slick, just that it homes in on specific elements of the band's style, leaving it with a certain precision of craft that will lure some and dismay others. The melodies twist and haunt consistently, rendering the trippiness nearly irrelevant. In fact, the major problem here is the obligation the band feels to maximize drama with a well-placed but distracting guitar wash or sonic flourish, robbing tension from their wonderful songs. "The Alter" and "Fish" are stark exceptions that lean completely on the loneliness in Jenn Wasner's voice and never offer resolution. The record could use more moments that unadorned. However, Wasner's guitar playing is so resourceful and achingly beautiful throughout, it's pointless to carp; her breathtaking performances alone make the album worthy. The soundscapes may stumble, but there's magic.