Is Civilian destined to be 2011’s Teen Dream? That breakout CD catapulted Beach House—Baltimore’s other celebrated dream-pop/indie-rock duo—to international acclaim, and this disc could follow suit. Although its 10 tunes are pricklier, Civilian is generously stocked and perfectly paced. Jenn Wasner’s spiky guitar and sturdy vocals anchor the songs, while Andy Stack’s drumming and keyboards add high-contrast, quiet-loud dynamics that generate tension and release. Like indie stalwarts The Pixies, Wye Oak conjures geysers of dissonance from pools of melody that eventually reabsorb the eruptions and exude a measured calm. The peaking crescendos in “Holy Holy” and “Dog Eyes” are thrilling and contrast nicely with the understated restraint permeating much of the material. You can expect to hear evocative gems like “The Alter” and “Two Small Deaths” in heavy rotation from Hampden to Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.
From an acclaimed Broadway production (Fela!) to a variety of area bands playing the music, Afrobeat continues its unlikely ascendancy. It’s some of the most infectious music on the planet, but it takes a battery of horn players and percussionists augmented by a few guitars and a handful of vocalists to make it work. As this live recording confirms, Chopteeth is the best of the local groups, with its crisp horn arrangements by Cheryl Terwilliger, percolating rhythms, healthy dose of 1970s funk, and rip-roaring set list that includes tunes by the late Fela and his son, Femi Kuti, not to mention Duke Ellington and Marc Ribot. By putting new swagger and swing into Afrobeat, Chopteeth reimagines it, instead of just recreating it.
Wye Oak and Chopteeth