The Civil Wars (Album Review) – The Civil Wars

The Civil WarsIt’s a civil war on the new self-titled The Civil Wars album. If only all civil wars were similar.

The folk duo, which announced they were going on hiatus for “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition” back in October, barely managed to finish their sophomore album which might be their last. This album was brewed in the midst of their turmoil. Can such tension translate into excellent music, the likes of which is present in their first album Barton Hollow, in a band that relies heavily on harmonies to stand out?

The truth is that The Civil Wars is even better than Barton Hollow.

From the cover of billowing smoke to Joy Williams spewing “I wish I’d never ever seen your face” on the album’s opening song “The One That Got Away,” a song that departs from their relatively acoustic style, you know you’re in for one musical ride. On Same Old Same Old, the duo examines a struggling relationship whose components don’t want to let go. “Do I love you? I still do. And I’m going to till I’m gone. But if you think that I can stay in this same old same old, well, I don’t,” they sing together on one of the album’s highlight songs.

My favorite song on the album, Dust to Dust, about the loneliness that we all experience doesn’t have the dramatic music you’d expect such a topic to require. It is subdued, relying more on what these two vocalists can do together to convey the story they want to tell. The harmonies the duo create on this track may sound secondary but it’s beyond essential for the mood it creates for the song.  “It’s not your eyes, it’s not what you say. It’s not your laughter that gave you away. You’re just lonely, you’ve been lonely too long. All your acting, your thin disguise, all your perfectly delivered lines. They don’t fool me, you’ve been lonely too long. Let me in the walls you’ve built around. We can light a match and burn them down. Let me hold your hands and dance round and round the flames in front of us, dust to dust.”

Eavesdrop, the album’s possibly most commercial song, is about dealing with pain, even if through a simple hug. “I can’t pull you closer than this. It’s just you and the moon on my skin. Don’t say that it’s over… let’s let the stars watch, let them stare. Let the winds eavesdrop, I don’t care. For all that we’ve got, don’t let go. Just hold me.”

The album has two covers. One of Etta James’ Tell Mama and the other of Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm. The Civil Wars completely unravels both songs and create their own version out of them. They make the lyrics and the story more prominent in both by toning down the music and making the vocals stand out more. D’Arline is a song that sounds gritty simply because it was recorded on an iPhone and included on the album as is. You can hear the background noise of a suburb on it as The Civil Wars flawlessly deliver the song.

Sacred Heart, a French song they wrote in Paris, is as surprising as it is interesting. With near-impeccable enunciation, the duo tell the story of a lover waiting for her significant other who may not show up while she remembers all the promises in the name of love on her way to the Sacred Heart. “Tu prends peut-être du retard. Tu as peut-être raté ton train. Tu ne peux peut-être pas me pardonner. Les ombres grandissent et les foules s’effacent. Je vais t’attendre là, viendras-tu pour moi? Je vais t’attendre là, seulement toi.”

The Civil Wars is intense. It’s also beautiful. This might be the band’s last album, a tragedy if it turns out to be true because this piece of music proves exactly how brilliantly this duo can do music. The band won’t even be performing these songs live. If you’ve ever seen their live performances, you’d know they are even better than they are recorded. Such an album creates a multitude of “if only” scenarios. With it heading to #1 status in the United States in a few days, the duo would have reached higher levels of success and fame with this work if only had they stayed on speaking terms. Add this album to your list of must-have music for 2013. It doesn’t matter if you like folk or alternative-tinged music, there’s something here which will bring forth the civil war in you.

Grade: A

Must download: The One That Got Away, Same Old Same Old, Dust to Dust. 

Two Black Cadillacs (Single Review) – Carrie Underwood

 

Carrie Underwood’s new single, off her platinum selling album Blown Away and as a follow up to one of 2012’s biggest country hits Blown Away, is Two Black Cadillacs, a song which sets an ominous tone the moment the first note strikes.

Two black Cadillacs driving in a slow parade. Headlights shining bright in the middle of the day. One’s for his wife, the other for the woman who loved him at night, Underwood sings as a dramatic melody plays in the background. She immediately throws us into the setting of a funeral where a preacher man is saying the man being buried was a good man and his brother says he was a good friend.

But the two women in the black veils have a secret to hide. The story could very well serve to make a movie drama and Underwood delivers it effortlessly in a few minutes.

Two months ago his wife found the number on his phone, turns out he’d been lying to both of them for far too long. They decided then he’d never get away with doing this to them, Underwood lets the plot thicken. The women, taking turns in lying a rose down on the coffin and throwing dirt into the deep ground, also have a secret to hide. So they share a crimson smile and leave their secret with the man they killed, at the grave, to die with them.

Two Black Cadillacs is a hauntingly dark song by Underwood that serves as a one-two punch by the country star as she delivers her album’s most critically acclaimed tracks as back to back singles. The darkness with which her tone delivers this song would make you think she’s lived these events herself but it’s only telling of the caliber that Underwood has turned into as a performer. As she sings “bye bye” to signal the women biding farewell to the man who betrayed them both, you can feel her voice pierce through.

Two Black Cadillacs is a song where the musicians playing couldn’t stop after it was done so they kept playing and playing. Part of them jamming is found on the album track and will probably be cut with the radio edit. The song goes fifty shades deep and is Underwood’s darkest and most thought-provoking single release to date. From the haunting thumping melody that is reminiscent of a funeral march to the rich and multi-layered storytelling lyrics, Carrie Underwood delivers. Releasing a “softer” song may have been a safer bet. But Underwood is here to let her detractors know that Blown Away was just a storm warning. Bye bye, bye bye. 

A.

The Civil Wars

I recently discovered this American folk duo called “The Civil Wars” and let me tell you – they are fantastic.
I downloaded their album soon after I heard them on The Hunger Games‘ movie song: Safe & Sound and it’s definitely one of the best albums released in 2011, slightly behind Adele’s 21. Yes, it’s that great.

Their songs are soothing, breathy, calming. Their songs are simply great.

I highly recommend you download their debut album, entitled Barton Hollow. You can find it on iTunes here. Or if you’re more “resourceful,” you know what to do.

I’m actually saddened that such great music cannot find its way to radio and be exposed more. It seems you really have to dig deep to find these great artists that are so overshadowed by radio-played uselessness.

My favorites off their debut album? Well, apart from every single song on the album, I think you’d enjoy these a lot. They’re simply great. My Father’s Father is a gut-wrenching homage to “home.”

20 Years:

My Father’s Father:

Poison & Wine: