Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars have a brand new album out. But they are in the midst their own civil war. Joy Williams & John Paul White, two of the most talented people in music today have not spoken to each other in almost a year, ever since they announced a seemingly long and indeterminate hiatus due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition”. The duo had blown up big last year; clinching two Grammys, reaching the top ten with their debut album, Barton Hollow, and making a hit song with Taylor Swift. I was just about to get tickets to their Australian tour that was supposed to happen earlier this year, when all of a sudden they officially announced their "break-up".

This self-titled sophomore effort is even more bleak, but much stronger than Barton Hollow (the album cover couldn't be more clear); filled songs of yearning, break up and loneliness. On the surface they are about the relationships between two lovers gone sour, but really it's hard to listen and not think that many of these songs were a reflection of the problems and tension stirring up between Williams & White during the recording sessions. Musically they're less quiet this time round too; the more fleshed-out textures with the addition of drums and distorted guitars, those sudden instrumental escalations in melodies and volume occasionally lift the tension and heartbreak up to anthemic proportions, as heard in songs like Same Old Same Old and Eavesdrop. The more rough-edged stuff like I Had Me A Girl, Devil's Backbone and Oh Henry all follow the same vein as Barton Hollow (the song).

My God, the way both of them pour their hearts & souls into their vocals and the way their voices intertwine with each other is simply breathtaking. My absolute favorite is From This Valley, a mighty fine example of 21st Century Americana that puts the pseudo-folk outfit, Mumford & Sons, to shame. I listen to a song like this and it gives me hope that this won't be the last we'll hear from The Civil Wars. I share the same sentiment with every fan out there -- we can only hope both of them are able to resolve their differences in due time and get back onstage where they belong.