Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Expect Delays: A Look At The Superb New Album From Evans The Death

I didn't consider myself a big fan of Evans the Death until I heard song number 2 on their new record, Expect Delays, out soon on Slumberland Records here and Fortuna POP! overseas. Second track "Terrified", with its lopping rhythm and bracing sheets of feedback, reminded me instantly of Th' Faith Healers. But, unlike Th' Faith Healers, Evans the Death have more pop sense, for lack of a better term. What would have descended into a squally freak-out years ago in that other band's hands, here is turned into something that's damn catchy.

So, that's a long way of saying that I've been playing this album, especially "Terrified", for nearly 2 months now. I've had the promo of this legally since the start of 2015 but I held off on posting a review until it was closer to release date time but, heck, others are posting reviews now so why not go ahead and join the chorus of voices telling you how good Expect Delays is?

"Sledgehammer" is indie pop in a similar vein to what Veronica Falls do but Katherine Whitaker's lead vocals are sublime here. Those vocals elevate this song, and many others here, into something special indeed. When the hook of the song kicks in, it's a moment of rapture -- the sort of moment I'd look for on releases in the import CD bins at Slumberland Records boss Mike's old place of employment in Silver Spring, Maryland: the legendary Vinyl Ink Records.

And while that might sound like idle nostalgia on my part, it's also an acknowledgement at how much fun this record is. Expect Delays might feed the need that so many people share for this sort of music but, at the same time, it's also pushing the noise pop genre into different shapes. "Idiot Button" weds a hard beat to what is almost a Lesley Gore-era kind of melody. Throw in some piano and backing vocals and you've got more of an updating on pre-Beatles-era tropes than you have another near-shoegaze riff-rocker.

If "Bad Year" is all early Long Blondes, than the wonderfully titled "Just 60,000 days 'Til I Die" is Morrissey-inflected moping of the very best sort. When Whitaker's voice suddenly trails off and gets all echo-y like the late great Trish in Broadcast, it's a moment of spine-tingling pop bliss.

The title cut uses some Muzak and airport (?) chatter as samples to start the song off but then quickly turns into a sprightly run through the hooks like those on early singles from The Sundays. It's an affecting bit of business and unlike anything else I'm hearing these days. Instantly catchy, "Expect Delays" is one of my favorites on...Expect Delays.

"Enabler" is hard, fuzzy, pop goodness. For every cut on Expect Delays that takes big risks, there are also tracks which sound familiar and which should please long-term fans of this band.

If "Shanty" is another hat-tip in the direction of Harriet Wheeler, the rollicking "Clean Up" is a burst of Flatmates-like energy. Chiming guitars, excellent vocal tracking here, and slamming drums make this one of the best cuts on this Evans the Death record.

"Don't Laugh at My Angry Face" is, with its Moz-like title, a gem. Part early Stereolab with that organ-and-drum figure, and part classic-era post-punk with a woozy hint of The Raincoats, the track is a slow-burner. Surging in parts, lurching in others, the band flails deliberately around Katherine's vocals. The effect is one of a melange of influences, all of them great, and an end result of something fresh and excellent.

Expect Delays is probably gonna end up on a lot of 2015 Best Of... lists in about 10 months. It's a remarkably strong mix of styles that advances this sort of music in some sense. It would have been easy for the band to simply crank out 10 versions of "Sledgehammer" and sit back and reap in the praise. And while I'd love a record like that I'd love one like this one even more. For every moment that feels like all the stuff I used to scour record shops for, there are on Expect Delays moments that seem new to me, moments that make me think that I was a fool to not pay so much attention to Evans the Death for so long.

So, do yourself a favor and pre-order Expect Delays now.

Follow Evans the Death on their official Facebook page.

Expect Delays will be out in a week or so on Slumberland Records here and Fortuna POP! overseas.