Don’t mess with them. Do not mess with Deas Vail. Don’t be fooled by the humble DIY ethic, the disarmingly happy press photos, the presence of a married couple (and therein a female member), and the startlingly high range of her husband the vocalist. They are not here to spoon feed you candy pop ditties. They’re here to kill you with their dark emotional feelings. Kill you to death.
Well, at least they dig around in some rather dark sounds for a band that look and feel like they should be funneling sugar into your ears, and they appear to be one of those bands who are able to hide their complexities within the framework of what seem like catchy pop songs. Like Mew meets Mae. Lots of falsetto, lots of piano, and a little bit of the emo-pop/rock to keep the young-uns at bay. Thrice lite perhaps, or Edison Glass Jr., they cloak Myriad like alt-darkness inside Everglow walls, waiting for listeners with the right blend of creativity and pop sensibility to come searching. They walk quite finely, a line that could be less than hospitable, dipping in and out of uneasy melodies and unexpected time shifts, almost continuously bending around interwoven post-rock standards like bowed strings, and minor keys.
Not without a gaffe or two, for they slip here and there and still feel at times like two separate schools of thought. Two bands in one, trying not to tip the scales too far to either side, balancing (albeit pretty well) catchy pop and mold-bending (by no means mold-breaking) song structure. Don’t get ahead of me here or anything, they’re not blowing your mind, and they don’t belong on a pedestal. But they do belong somewhere near the pedestal of your iPod’s heart.
A couple misdeals and a little table talk, but Deas Vail still play most of their cards intentionally, opting at times for a poker faced bluff rather than going all in. It’s good that some bands still know their standing in the world, and the value of beauty over wannabe radio-crunch brawn (*cough* Mae *cough*… ‘scuse me). The novelty factor of their debut is gone, replaced instead by small strides of maturity, new tightness, lightness, and a general new listen-ability.
Singer Wes Blaylock’s vocals have improved over the short year and a half since their debut LP All The Houses Look The Same. Still capable of testicle-tightening high notes, but more at home in his lower mid range. Reminiscent of Copeland’s Aaron Marsh at times, but much much stronger, and without the faux British undertones. Stronger too are the melodies themselves, a little more grown up, although sometimes still too scattered for cohesion. The title track, which happens to be the best song of the album (and possibly their careers) displays a good mix of originality and worn out familiarity. The type of melody you wouldn’t tire of hearing repeatedly, even if you were trying to.
It all comes to a semi-cliched symphonic end on “Balance,” dipping into the “Less Than Stellar” lyric ideas box while hanging upside down on the farthest branches of the cheesy tree. But it works, for the most part, and a rather lovely orchestra leaves us just as quick as it came. Its pretty short, even for an EP. With five songs clocking in at just under 18 minutes there isn’t a lot of room for overanalysis—or error I suppose. Its an obvious hold-me-over until they birth a sophomore full length, but with EPs being the future of music (just ask Thom Yorke), and attention spans for LPs dwindling (“I’m an albatross, an albatross”) even the half-assed in-between efforts of small time indie bands can make or break big future plans.
Jordan Kurtz is a Patrol music editor.
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