Beautiful Dysfunction: The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars’ newest (and possibly last) album is like an ode to every dysfunctional relationship that ever has been, or ever will be.  The album is poignant and breathtaking in its sincerity, rendering the listener a silent witness  The Civil Wars to a couple’s journey through temptation, crushing desperation, cruelty, and, ultimately, towards defeat.  Perhaps the most striking touch is that the order of these emotions is scrambled, skillfully mimicking an ambivalence many will find familiar.

Musically, the eponymous album is every bit as strong as their previous releases.  The Civil Wars continues to display the duo’s exceptional skill at layering instruments, lyrics, and vocals in a way which very nearly transforms their music into a living, breathing thing.  But beyond matching the expected level of excellence (which was quite difficult, given how acclaimed their previous music has been), The Civil Wars should be applauded for finding ways to introduce new elements on this album.  For example, songs like “I Had Me a Girl” and “Dust to Dust” feature percussive elements previously only heard on certain soundtrack projects.  Likewise, many of the tracks utilize electric guitar and distortion, giving the overall album a somewhat wider range of sound and emotion than their previous acoustically-styled releases offered.  This edgier sound is well-utilized on tracks like “The One That Got Away” and “Devil’s Backbone”.

The Civil Wars  In the end, both new and returning fans of The Civil Wars will find plenty to love on this album.  In addition to the newer sounds, there is “Same Old, Same Old”, which seems to continue the dysfunctional conversation begun in “Poison and Wine”, and “Devil’s Backbone” has a sort of roguish country sound reminiscent of “Barton Hollow”.  Even those who have hoped for more of the pair’s imaginative covers will be satisfied by the brilliant re-imaginations of both Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” and Etta James’ “Tell Mama”.  Ultimately, few—if any—albums this year will match the level of The Civil Wars.

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Patricia Moulton

Patricia has been in love with music for as long as she can remember. Her first actual performance was in a church musical in the second grade, and she hasn't stopped making and listening to music since. These days, you can find her working at a desk job in West Texas to make sure her rent gets paid, but spending much of her free time devouring all of the music she can get her hands on and perfecting her own musical skillset. Right now, Patricia's primary musical outlet is with her church's worship team, but she's always looking for new opportunities, and combining her love of writing with her ardent affection for all things musical to write for The Appetizer's blog is a thrilling new adventure.

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