Mar 092011
Authors: Michael Elizabeth Sakas

Dream pop is a musical subgenre defined in the 1980s by bittersweet pop melodies with an essence of ethereal textures and moods. The vocals are breathy and sensual, and the lyrics are introspective and existential.

Bands like Beach House and Jaill have been floating this airy style back to the surface as of late, and Wye Oak’s new album “Civilian” flaunts the genre flawlessly.

The blend of Jenn Wasner’s moody female vocals with a grounded, unembellished musical foundation forms a beautifully deep and contemplative listen.

While her lyrics get muddled at times, the transparency of Wasner’s words continues to stay interesting during those moments. Although, the emotional impact of the album increases when the lyrics are clear, and those moments are rare.

But Wasner makes sure the intention of “Civilian” is understood by printing it on the back of the CD.

“We wrote these songs … about aloneness (the positive kind), loneliness (the horrible kind), moving on and letting go (of people, places and things).”

The opening track “Two Small Deaths” was written soon after Wasner found out about the murder of a distant relative and the death of Alex Chilton (an iconic American songwriter), both which occurred on the same day. She sings, “Two small deaths happened today, while I was at work, while I was at play … I’m saving up all my strength for when I finally fail at keeping you safe,” grappling with guiltily thoughts.

The title track “Civilians” deals with issues of preserving innocence through a relationship with the metaphorical lyrics “I still keep my baby teeth in the bedside table with my jewelry, you still sleep in the bed with me, my jewelry and my baby teeth.”

This third album from Wye Oak has matured during dark times in the artists’ life, and is dealt with through their 10 tracks.

“Doubt,” the final song, is barebones.  Nothing but echoed guitar plucks and Wasner concluding with the warning “If you should doubt my heart, remember this/ that I would like to you, if I believed it was right to do.”

But this album is nothing but honest.

Music reviewer Michael Elizabeth Sakas can be reached at

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