Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #14: "Civilian" -- Wye Oak

Baltimore duo Wye Oak had their best year yet in 2011, capped off with the release of new record Civilian on Merge Records. The band also opened for The Decemberists at the beginning of the band's North American tour (side note: SUPERB sets at the Beacon Theatre in New York as part of that tour), and played an acclaimed set at this year's Sasquatch Music Festival.

The song "Civilian," which was featured in a promo for The Walking Dead's season two premiere, is the duo's best to date. "I am nothing without pretend," sings Jenn Wasner to begin the song, as the sounds of percussion and ambient guitar fill the air behind her.

The guitar lick Wasner provides is intriguing, to say the least (and I say the least mainly because I don't really know what else to say). It's not especially catchy, but I couldn't stop listening to the song at first simply because of Wasner's guitar parts. It's quite unlike most other guitar sounds in rock this year.

"Civilian" eventually launches into a much louder segment, in which drummer Andy Stack provides train-clatter drum hits, all the while playing the keyboard part underneath it all (seriously, this guy plays so many different instruments even live, it's astounding). Soon after, we have a solo from Wasner, who distorts the thing to Kingdom come.

It's one of the moodiest, backwoods songs of 2011, and establishes Wye Oak as a force to be reckoned with in the future. While the rest of Civilian didn't match the highs its title track experienced, it showed us the genius Wye Oak can provide, even as a mere duo. That's a lot of sound coming from just two people.

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