Folk duo The Civil Wars is back with their self-titled sophomore album. This time around, the instrumentals are stronger, the harmonies are more sorrowful and the album as a whole is much darker than their debut release, Barton Hollow.

The Civil Wars’ heartache-filled album gives listeners an inside look into band members Joy Williams and John Paul White’s crumbling partnership. The album has songs of heartbreak, regret and the ruin love leaves behind. While Williams and White never had a romantic relationship, the two announced a hiatus in November 2012 due to “irreconcilable differences of ambition” and are currently not on speaking terms. Whether the reflection of the band’s internal conflict in their music is a coincidence or not, the raw emotions and lyrics create a powerful story of broken relationships.

The first taste of this new, darker side of The Civil Wars is the album’s opener, “The One That Got Away.” Quite unlike the Katy Perry song of the same name, this song tells the regret of letting a person in rather than longing for a lost love. Williams carries the song with her swelling vocals, never letting herself be overpowered by the slamming guitar and drums. The listener is left in sheer wonder at the strength of her voice.

While “The One That Got Away” mainly features Williams, “Eavesdrop” shows the perfect balance between the duo’s voices. As they sing of futile attempts to save a disintegrating relationship, their blending vocals add to the sense of heartbreak.  “Eavesdrop” mixes delicate, poetic lyrics with building volume. Although the result is beautiful to hear, the track’s ending is lackluster and leaves the listener unfulfilled.

Two standout songs on the album aren’t actually Civil Wars’ originals; they’re covers — one of Etta James and one of The Smashing Pumpkins. Williams reinterprets James’ fast-paced, blues song “Tell Mama” as a slow ballad, using the full depth of her voice to mimic a mother’s pain. The result is hauntingly beautiful and one of the album’s strongest tracks.

The cover of Smashing Pumpkin’s “Disarm” is similarly powerful. The rendition begins with only John Paul White singing, providing an opportunity to showcase his alternately rough and soothing voice. As the song approaches its end, more and more layers are added. First, Williams joins White, followed by stronger instrumentals. For the last “the killer in me is the killer in you,” almost everything is cut out but the duo’s voices, leaving the listener with an eerie, empty sensation.

Possibly the biggest disappointment from a rather strong album is the final track, “D’Arline.” The track is more reminiscent of Barton Hollow, showcasing a soft balance of the duo’s vocals and a romantic vibe. The simple song could have been perfect for breaking up the album’s darker tracks, but the quality leaves something to be desired. Because “D’Arline” was recorded using an iPhone, the guitar overwhelms the duo’s voices and the sound is a bit strange.

Overall The Civil Wars is a solid sophomore attempt. It’s filled with much more regret and sounds slightly more commercial than the duo’s debut album, but this doesn’t diminish its quality. Softer songs like “Dust to Dust” balance tracks with a more folk-rock vibe like “Devil’s Backbone.”  The sweet French song “Sacred Heart” and “D’Arline” provide welcome relief from the themes of anguish and ruin on the other tracks. This blend ensures that the listener is never overwhelmed, creating an album with enough depth so that it’s hard to tire out.

After hearing The Civil Wars, it’s undeniable that Williams and White are a match made in music heaven. If The Civil Wars winds up being the band’s last album, the duo will have had a short but renowned career. I’ll keep holding out hope that they end their own civil war soon.

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