The Civil Wars ‘The One That Got Away’ – Single Review


The Civil Wars do dark very well, and they supply that in abundance on
their latest single, 'The One That Got Away'. After a mini-hiatus and
cancelled tour dates last year citing ‘irreconcilable differences’, luckily
that didn’t stop the duo making new music. With haunting, gently strummed
electric guitar, suspense-filled mandolin, and a subtle, unassuming yet catchy
guitar hook, this song toes the line between heavy and the ‘less is more’

However, it isn’t until you really listen to the song that
you really class parts of it as heavy. The duo has largely stuck to their
stripped-back, folky roots, and Joy’s light, wavery vocals are always the icing
on the cake. Juxtaposing the sweet twang of a dobro with a chorus melody worthy
of a big rock song, it subverts what we expect, yet builds with each repetition
of the refrain. Finally, in the third chorus, we are treated to more of a rock
out, but they still hold back. I suspect they do not want to move from their
current musical positioning, although I can imagine they’d do rockier songs
exceptionally well, and I hope to hear more of that from the new album.

The harmonies of John Paul are delicate and easy to miss if
you’re not listening out for them, but they add another layer to the song,
sitting amongst layers already rich in interesting pieces of melody and
decoration. Especially nice is the tantalizing brief dobro solo that promises
so much yet teases the listener. The Civil Wars are experts at what they do
musically and ‘The One That Got Away’ sees them lean towards edgier material,
yet at the same time not ruining the tried-and-tested formula that they have in

However, the lyrics are where it really gets interesting.
Entitled ‘The One That Got Away’, one would expect a subject matter similar to
every other song with that name, and there are many; the wistful longing for a
love that slipped through the cracks is a popular choice, and one that has been
done to death in recent years. I was dreading reading the lyrics for this
reason, but I was pleasantly surprised. Turning the conventional lyric on its
head, the narrator wishes the person
they love was the one who got away, admitting “I never meant for this to mean a
thing”. While they still keep the wistful aspect we would have originally
expected, again it is turned around, the chorus proclaiming “if I could go back
in time, when you only held me in your mind, just a longing gone without a
trace”. It is a song of love so strong it suffocates, “got away from me, for
anybody has to breathe”, leading us to assume it may been inspired by the
experiences of Joy and John Paul as The Civil Wars.

‘The One That Got Away’ is dark, interesting, and plays with
our expectations whilst delivering a sound that retains familiarity, yet
simultaneously pushing musical boundaries. I’m excited for the duo’s new
self-titled record (due August 6) and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Posted by Vickye.
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