Ten years after its release, Wye Oak’s ‘Civilian’ remains a raw, sinewy punch of a record—intense and self-assured. The album unravels with the sort of self-questioning and uncertainty that come with youth, and its specific confidence in unflinchingly probing all of those emotions. Now, a decade after the album’s original release, ‘Civilian + Cut All the Wires: 2009–2011’ delves back into that pivotal record and adds a lost album of unreleased tracks and demos to ‘Civilian’s universe, to be released on October 22nd via Merge.
Today, Wye Oak share ”Electricity,” a massive track from ‘Cut All the Wires’ and the song that lends the 10th anniversary release its title: “There’s nothing about you that I don’t adore / Show me these rooms and I’ll show you the way to the door / Walk me through / I’ll cut all the wires and spend my life with you.”
“After playing “Electricity” in live shows for a year or so around 2009, we made a studio recording but never mixed it, and ultimately decided to shelve the song. And so, it was relegated to the dustbin of time, AKA an old hard drive which I did not unearth until 2020 when I came looking for old photos and other memorabilia from the Civilianera. On my old drive, I found a treasure trove of material which we had both forgotten ever existed—original demos, live versions of the songs, and, most exciting, a bunch of fully realised studio recordings from this era which never saw the light of day. On “Electricity,” I was really bashing the drums in a way that I never would now, and I hear that same abandon in Jenn’s singing. The recording has much of what defined the first phase of Wye Oak: an urgent push and pull between chaos and beauty, and a hard-hitting attempt to push out as much sound as we possibly could from our duo setup. It’s not who we are anymore, but I still relate to the old feeling, and I still get goosebumps when I listen to these recordings. Everything old is new.”
Wye Oak has always existed, and likely always will, at an intersection, as a paradox. Gentle and jagged, fierce and vulnerable—even the clinical sheen of the word “civilian” feels at odds with a record whose content is almost violently human. As Wasner wrote in a short note that accompanied promotional mailings of the record to press in 2011: “These are songs about aloneness (the positive kind), loneliness (the horrible kind), moving on, and letting go (of people, places, and things).”