Civil Wars Album
(Album Cover courtesy of Columbia Records)

by Carrie Victoria

****1/2

After apologetically cancelling their European tour due to “internal discord” and “irreconcilable differences in ambition” last November, The Civil Wars have been ironically battling their own civil war ever since, leaving fans disappointed and heartbroken.

Despite the highly-speculated, and what many assume to be official break up, The Civil Wars still managed to release their self-titled album on Aug. 6, giving their fans some inkling of hope.

Yet, their sophomore album doesn’t leave much room for that. The songs paint a picture of the band’s inner-turmoil, with many seeming to be a farewell to the band itself.

This new album differs from their other music in some ways. For one, the electric guitar is played more in this new album in songs like “The One That Got Away” and “I Had Me a Girl.” Also, fans have noticed that the vocals are not as balanced on the new album’s songs.

In the past, the singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White balanced their vocals by taking turns singing melody and harmony, which can be heard when listening to songs such as “Poison and Wine” and “C’est La Mort” off of their Barton Hallow album. Six out of the twelve songs featured on their new album have Williams singing the melody and White singing harmony in the background.

This can be heard on the album’s first song “The One That Got Away” as well as a few others, including “Eavesdrop,” “Devil’s Backbone,” “Tell Mama,” “Oh Henry,” and “Sacred Heart.” It seems that they are distancing themselves from one another in the songs, pulling away from their take-turn and equal music style.

“The One That Got Away” also got many fans’ gears turning. Many have thought that the song is about the singers themselves and hypothesized that an affair is the reason for their break up. Of course, we can’t assume. We know what that does. Plus, neither Williams nor White has confessed to this.

Yet, many of their fans can’t ignore the passionate way the singers glanced into one another’s eyes while they performed live in the past. The music video for “The One That Got Away,” on the other hand, shows the band members distancing themselves from one another, never really looking into one each other’s eyes and never really in the same scene together.

There are songs on the album that do have more balanced vocals, and those songs deliver what fans love most about The Civil Wars—a sad melody with hauntingly beautiful harmonies. Two of these songs, “Same Old Same Old” and “Dust to Dust,” showcase the band’s talents and leave the listener feeling heart wrenched because the lyrics express the turmoil within the band: “I wanna leave you. I wanna lose us. I wanna give up, but I won’t.”

“D’Arline,” the final song on the album, seems to be a farewell to The Civil Wars. The listener can hear crows chirping in the background while the duo sings of a love lost. According to Billboard, Williams said that they recorded it on her iPhone and that this recording of the song is the only one that exists.

Even though The Civil Wars’ self-titled album differs from the first, it still leaves me feeling satisfied. A lot of heart was put into these by two devoted musicians, and it shows. The lyrics are beautiful and heart wrenching, as well as the music, and I can feel their pain myself. The album is constantly on repeat in my room, and I suggest that you give them a listen if you haven’t already.