Review | The Civil Wars – Self-Titled
by Courtney Leigh Allen, lover of new adventures, mountains & maps, writing out of Denver, Colorado.
It’s been three weeks since The Civil Wars’ self-titled sophomore album came out, and we we’re no closer to knowing any real facts about their current situation than we were ten months ago when the duo announced their indefinite hiatus due to “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition.”
In the media hype surrounding the release, John Paul has said nothing, and though Joy has been doing all sorts of interviews, she hasn’t said much more. What we do know is that the two are no longer on speaking terms. While I don’t doubt the troubles of the two, I do think that whoever is handling their PR is doing a phenomenal job. Which means they’re turning the strain into sales. And with all of the speculation, I can’t help but wonder how our opinion of this album might be different if the band wasn’t in the middle of a bitter divorce.
At the end of the day, the album is just a collection of 12 songs, all smokey, bitter, pleading and lovely. From their Grammy-winning debut, the two dialed it up a notch. From the energetic chorus on the opener, The One That Got Away, to the grainy guitars and John Paul’s bluegrassy howl on I Had Me A Girl, the album is just a bit bigger, bolder and better.
For anyone looking to read between the lines, take a look at Same Old, Same Old. The two sing together through the track, ”I’m gonna name names / I’m gonna call us out / I’m gonna say it / If you won’t.” Though in this song, and a bit more throughout the album, Joy’s vocals are a bit more noticeable. On Dust to Dust, John Paul starts the conversation, “You’re like a mirror / reflecting me,” with Joy finishing it up: “Takes one to know one / so take it from me.”
While their dueling vocals have always been the crux of their sound, the overall sound of their second album is phemonenal. The pedal steel on Dust To Dust is as depressing as it gets. There is no clutter or excess, just each song performed and produced exactly how it should be.
At the end of the day, this is one of the year’s best albums. Just be careful not to read too much into it. It’s a black hole for sure. Though I’m sure this album would make a great soundtrack to your demise.