The self-titled second album of The Civil Wars, released in August 2013, is interesting when one goes deeper into the story behind it. In late 2012, the band announced that they were going on hiatus. Unusually, the production of the album did not signify the reunion of the band; rather it was written, recorded and produced with little to no communication between the two members, John Paul White and Joy Williams. When asked as to why the band had broken up and was “no longer on speaking terms”, Williams replied: “listen to the album to find out what happened to the band.”
The first song on the album is entitled ‘The One that Got Away’. It’s no longer a question of what happened to the band; the answer is loudly proclaimed in this opening track. The rest of the album is a continuation of their story.
Their previous album wasn’t a hostile one. They didn’t have songs with an underlying anger in them, because the band wasn’t angry. By incorporating and exploring this new emotion, they’ve remained faithful to their mantra all along: write about what you’re living. They don’t seek to hide the tension that had come between them – instead they explored this tension musically through tracks like ‘The One That Got Away’ and ‘The Devil’s Backbone’. The album does not limit itself to a sentiment of melancholy. It showcases a brutally honest longing for a time when the sky was just a little bit sunnier and the grass was a bit greener.
Through songs like ‘Eavesdrop’ and ‘D’Arline’ they remember earlier days. As a salute to their time touring, they include three songs popular from their live sets: ‘From This Valley’, ‘Oh Henry’ and ‘Disarm’ (a brilliant cover of the Smashing Pumpkins hit). The originals and new songs on their album are beautiful, but now there’s a bitterness to it.
That’s the best way to describe this album. It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, but there’s a bitter note to it, because the dream didn’t last through the night. It’s unfortunate, as the Civil Wars had the potential to be a classic 21st century band, with the likes of Coldplay, and Mumford and Sons. Their unique blend of folk, southern-rock, pop, and Simon and Garfunkel-esque vocals gave them a sound unlike anything in the music industry today.
This album, debatably their last, should be treasured. The circumstances, while terrible for fans of the band, led to an album more brutally honest than I’ve seen in many years.
If you the sounds of The Civil Wars so far, check out their website for download links and more band info!