BY ALYSSA HOLCOMB
With a blend of hushed melodies and slightly edgy electric instruments, indie trio Civil Twilight hone in on the indie-alternative spectrum with their sophomore effort, Holy Weather.
Resonant of a variety of bands, from the introspective nature of Death Cab for Cutie to the slightly space-age vocalization of Muse, the South African group’s latest release fully showcases the musical mixture that is both genre-challenging yet undeniably indie.
Kicking off with the soft, almost soothing chants in “River,” vocalist Steven McKellar puts his quiet, pushing tenor on display, backed by a smooth blend of guitars and bass. Followed by the title track, the almost harp-like guitars (supplemented by Steven’s brother Andrew) and repeated use of U2-esque soaring vocals continue this nature-shrouded musical exploration, making the album like a journey through different musical landscapes, from the tops of vocal mountaintops to the gritty bottoms of the bass-lined alt-rock valleys.
The current single “Fire Escape” is an example of the latter, a pounding bass line and simple syncopation by drummer Richard Wouters making listeners “slaves to the beat,” with Steven McKellar’s voice continuing to rise through the chorus. Right on the song’s heels is the equally gritty “Move/Stay,” a deep grumble of a bass line accenting the utterly bop-able backbeats; this furthers the entire aura of the album, the dance-ability punctuated with the line “You gotta move if you wanna stay.” The instrumentation of the songs may not make them the typical dance-club fare, but the combination of the crunching guitars and heavy drum beats creates movement on their own.
While harmony is not prominent, the real spotlight of the group is centered on the effortless combination of the music itself. For example, in “Highway of Fallen Kings”, the sharpened focus on the bass leads the song off with a dark feel, but as the song progresses, light guitar overlaid with soft vocals turns it into a more sentimental lullaby. Continually, the slow and sad “It’s Over” continues the lament, showing the pure emotion just beneath the surface of each track. The group knows how to balance these contrasting genres and turn them into a harmonious mesh of just the right amount from each.
Civil Twilight is currently touring across the US. For more information, visit www.civiltwilightband.com.