Civil Twilight - Holy Weather
Record Label: Wind-Up
Release Date: March 26, 2012
Alas, Dave Matthews is not the only talented musician to hail from South Africa. That title can also be shared with the Nashville trio Civil Twilight. The band, which includes brothers Andrew and Steven McKeller and Richard Wouters, emigrated to the United States in 2005, originally settling in Los Angeles, and then later relocating to Nashville. Their self-titled debut album, which was reviewed by this very writer, was released on Wind-Up Records and drew comparisons to U2, Muse and Jeff Buckley. Earlier this year, the group released Holy Weather, an arresting, spellbinding and utterly dynamic album that is arguably one of the year's strongest releases.
Holy Weather's first single is "Fire Escape," a sexy and pulsating number that draws on the line "I don't wanna fill my body with with drugs I can't even name." One listen and the bait has been taken. This is confident, first-rate musicianship as engaging and memorable as anything else out there. But "Fire Escape," is just the tip of the iceberg. Album opener "River," is hypnotic, ethereal and deeply haunting; "Move/Stay" is dense, meaty and thick. On the upbeat numbers, there's a palpable sense of kinesis and a definitive nod towards U2, and on "Move/Stay," that is most certainly felt when vocalist Steven McKeller wails, "Move, move before it's too late, move before they close the gate, every feel's got a losing, every one's got a place." That sense of kinesis and urgency is repeated on the cascading "Shape of a Sound," a towering triumph that is most definitely arena-ready and without a doubt, radio ready. But, "Shape of a Sound" is not the only radio friendly single, as its successor "Sweet Resistance is also quite hook-heavy. Though it is decidedly more subdued and withdrawn, it is also shimmering, gossamery and nothing short of stunning. And yet the aforementioned tracks aren't even the album's best moments.
That of course belongs to the inimitable title track, the cinematic valentine "It's Over," and its companion piece "Every Walk That I've Ever Taken Has Been In Your Direction." The second of these is a stark meditation on romance that may arguably the best song the band has ever written. To put it succinctly, it is the kind of song that comes along once a decade and has a power and gravitas that can certainly push this band far beyond its relative obscurity. But Holy Weather's pinnacle moment is easily the title track, a layered and detailed affair that feels like two songs in one. The first half is plinky, electric and intricate; while the second half is dense, enveloping and richly textured. And it is there in those five minutes that Holy Weather makes the most sense. After all, what is art if it doesn't challenge us? What is music if it doesn't dare to be different? With Holy Weather, the Nashville trio has crafted a master work, a deeply affecting, heavily nuanced collection of eleven absolute gems. And so it is, one has to sit and wonder, why on earth are Civil Twilight not more well-known?
Is it the record label? Well that seems a bit unfair considering Wind-Up has as strong a pull as any independent label out there. And it's certainly not the marketing as the trio has been featured in a bevy of movies and TV shows. And it certainly isn't their lack of touring as the band logs close to 200 gigs a year for the better part of the last half-dozen years. So therein lies the conundrum. How does a band this talented, and this commercial not get adorned by the masses? Perhaps it is all just too early to tell. Maybe Civil Twilight does indeed have a strong and wealthy future ahead of them, but if albums like Holy Weather continue to go ignored, there is something deeply wrong with the present state of the music industry. If this one doesn't get the masses moving, then maybe the next one will be the bellwether. But even then, it feels awfully hard to top this effort. Holy Weather is truly something very special. Rare, refined and beautifully adorned. If it doesn't move you, you're made of stone.
Shit, I've been meaning to check this out for ages. Didn't love the debut, but they killed when I saw them open for JEW last spring, and "Quiet in My Town" is one of my favorite songs from the last few years.
Awesome seeing this review here. I checked this album out a few months ago and haven't stopped listening to it since. One of the most interesting, affecting and consistent albums I've heard in years. Checked out the debut album and was pretty underwhelmed; it's obvious they have really matured as a band from the self-titled to this effort.
Really really great album that has flown under the radar a lot this year. Even as a pretty big Civil Twilight fan, I haven't given this the attention it deserves. I too saw them open for JEW on the Invented tour and was blown away by them. Can't wait to see them for a third time, opening up for MuteMath in October.